Norfolk council tax rise set

Councillors battling plans to shake up day centre care for some of the most vulnerable people Norwich were yesterday accused of scaremongering by Conservatives.

Councillors battling plans to shake up day centre care for some of the most vulnerable people Norwich were yesterday accused of scaremongering by Conservatives.

County Hall agreed 1.9pc rise in council tax bills for its share of services as part of a �579m revenue budget for the coming financial year, which will see bills for average band D properties rise by �21.33 a year, or 41p a week.

But opposition parties pressed in vain for a reversal of some of the more controversial measures - including plans to switch off nearly half of the county's street lights, and the closure of three day centres for elderly people.

There were also concerns about moves to save �600,000 with a proposed shake-up of day centres for people with learning difficulties, which will see three of the nine centres closed and sold off and a shift towards providing more care in the community.

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Norwich has three centres, the Blackhorse Centre, Hooper Lane, Sprowston Day Services, in Aslake Close, and Norwich Day Services in Ipswich Road.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, rejected criticism of the administration's approach over the issue.

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'People are winding people up and upsetting them for no good reason,' he said. 'You are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our society, but deliberately using it as an electioneering ploy. It makes me very cross, when this sort of thing happens.

'When we have proposals on learning difficulties day centres, we will bring them forward, when they will be discussed and put out to consultation. We will do things in the correct way.

'We are not proposing cuts in services whatsoever,' he added. 'People will get the same service, but perhaps not in the same place.'

Paul Morse, Lib Dem group leader, said the Tory budget plans failed to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

Andrew Boswell, leader of the Green group, warned that an 'onslaught' of cuts could break the system, particularly in children's and adult social services and called for the learning difficulty changes to be put on hold

'While we understand there may be good thinking behind this, no proper case has been made for it,' Dr Boswell said. 'It's not thought through.'

Labour's George Nobbs said his party would freeze council tax this year, invest more in county farms and look again at the council's relationship with its arms length subsidiary Norse.

Daniel Cox, leader of the county council, said the budget, which will freeze staff pay in the coming year and also see 65 manager posts scrapped as part of a council shake-up, would continue to help residents through the recession and its focus on the council's strategic aims would stand Norfolk in good stead when the recovery came.

'Through these times of uncertainty and change, we need to ensure that the values of prudence; sound financial management; and a strong financial standing remain at the heart of all we do and the decisions we take,' Mr Cox said.

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