Norwich families set for council tax freeze

Families in Norwich look set for a council tax freeze next year, while City Hall leaders are ready to raid reserves to protect front-line services.

But, with Norwich City Council needing to save �12.2m over the next four years to balance the budget, �1m will be set aside to cover the potential cost of making City Hall staff redundant.

The Labour cabinet will next week put forward its 2011/12 budget, in which it says an extra �1.85m needs to be saved in 2011/12.

They say �850,000 can be saved by holding back spending and not filling staff vacancies, rather than by cutting services.

But leaders will need to take �1m out of reserves to prevent cuts to front-line services and are also setting aside �1m to cover the cost of possible redundancies at City Hall, with the authority having already reduced its number of full time equivalent posts from 850 to 754.

The council has said, given the scale of savings which need to be made, it will 'not be possible now or in the future to avoid making staff redundant.'

And taking �1m from the reserves, reducing them from �4.2m to �3.2m, will bring the amount in the council's coffers down to the recommended level for prudent reserves.

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But Alan Waters, the city council's cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services, said: 'We have done a fairly heavy risk assessment and using the reserves enables us to hold the line on the budget into the next financial year.'

'The opposition parties might be saying we should be cutting more right now, but that does not seem to be a sensible approach to us.

'The reality is that things are going to get tougher, but we need the time to understand how that is going to play out.

'The capacity of the council has been reduced and there has been a loss of jobs. But we think we have put together the best budget possible in uncertain times.'

Central government has pledged to allocate a grant worth the equivalent of a 2.5pc council tax rise to any authority that opts not to increase its levy - which nets the city council just under �230,000 on top of the �9.2m it hopes to collect in council tax.

The Liberal Democrats have already called for the number of top bosses at City Hall to be cut, but the Labour group said it had already taken out 'significant management costs' including one director, two assistant directors and several heads of service.'

The city council's cabinet is set to recommend the budget when it meets next Wednesday, before a debate at full council.

Norfolk County Council, which is set to agree on Monday to �155m of cuts over the next three years, has already announced a council tax freeze.

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