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'Cliff edge' warning as Norfolk County Council's budget black hole widens to £70m

PUBLISHED: 18:34 18 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:57 18 January 2019

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Archant

The financial black hole at Norfolk County Council has soared to a 'cliff edge' £70m, with the leader warning tough decisions lie ahead unless the government makes pledges over future funding.

In September, Andrew Proctor, the Conservative leader at County Hall, said the budget gap had been brought down to just over £45m.

But less than six months later, and the gap has widened to £70m, with Mr Proctor blaming rising cost pressures on adult social care and children’s services.

He said, although the government has provided one-off cash, which has plugged some gaps for next year, the picture leading up to 2022 is extremely uncertain - but a further £80m of cuts and savings could need to be made.

The council is budgeting for a 2.99pc council tax increase in the coming year and 1.99pc rises in the following two years.

He said: “The council is facing major financial pressures that we cannot resolve locally, solely through council tax and business rates.

“These pressures include the growth in special education needs costs and the care needs of our ageing population - national issues that are affecting many other councils.

“One-off money from government provides some welcome respite but isn’t a credible, sustained solution to these massive national pressure.”

The council says its funding from government has been slashed by £204m since 2010, and has made £364m of cuts and savings in that time.

More are in the pipeline in next month’s budget. including the proposed closure of children’s centres and changes to care costs, which will hit vulnerable people.

Mr Proctor said the council would be setting out a business plan for the next six years, but that “tough decisions” could have to be made unless the government provides certainty.

He said: “Whilst I support the government’s desire for councils to be more self-sufficient, secretary of state James Brokenshire is now conscious of the need for mutli-year funding - and I think that’s crucial.”

But Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group, said: “They have to stop being mealy mouthed about this. They have colluded with their government that cut funding and is causing profound damage to people who rely on services.”
And Dan Roper, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I expressed strong doubts when the council announced the budget gap had reduced to £45m. It is now clear that was based on spin, not substance.

“This is a reality check that is the result of a Tory government withdrawing funding and a Tory council not being able to control key budgets.”

A report which will go before the council’s policy and resources committee on Monday, January 28, warns it is a ‘cliff edge’ issue.

MORE: As Norfolk faces cuts and council tax hike, revamp bill for County Hall soars by extra £24m

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