City council unable to say if services will need to be cut amid budget gap

Norwich City Council is taking contracted-out services back in-house; Photo: Nick Butcher.

Norwich City Council waiting for government settlement before it can say if services will have to be cut - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

The city council is unable to say if it can balance the books over the next five years, as it waits for financial settlements from the government

On Wednesday evening, cabinet members at Norwich City Council heard an update on the council's medium-term financial strategy - a five-year look ahead at the council's budget.

Ahead of the meeting, the council said it was anticipating a considerable gap in its budget, with £10.6m of savings needed over the next four years.

Sandra Bogelein, the Green Party leader on the city council, said an update from officers showed the council was making prudent decisions but questioned how confident officers were about the future.

"Can you give me an indication of how confident that the council can reduce the deficit between income and expenditure to zero in the next years, so we can avoid the last option that none of us wants to see, which is stop doing some things?"

Sandra Bogelein said several people had contacted her with problems booking coronavirus tests. Photo

Green Party councillor Sandra Bogelein questioned how confident the council was - Credit: Archant

A council officer said: "We still don't know what our [government] settlement is at this point.

"It would be unfair for any of us to sit here and say we don't have to stop doing some things.

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"What I can give you assurance over is the senior leadership team has been working hard to look generate efficiencies, generate additional income and we're developing business cases that we'll talk about later in the calendar year. 

"I can give you the assurance we're doing everything we can to avoid stopping services but I can't give you that guarantee."

Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for corporate resources, added: "If I may add a political response to that. Nor does this government know.

"We must remain open to all options that may occur."

A report to the cabinet ahead of the meeting outlined a series of issues facing the council and residents.

In particular, the council has lost income in areas such as car parking, rental income, licensing income and fees and charges from cultural and leisure activities due to the pandemic.

The report also highlighted the need to sell the Norwich airport industrial estate, jointly owned by Norfolk County Council and the city council, to fund capital projects such as building social housing.

A draft budget option is now expected to be presented to the cabinet for consideration before the end of 2021, with a consultation to follow.

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