Fewer Christmas lights, public toilet closures and a hike in burial costs - Norwich City Council asks public to choose which cuts to make
PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 July 2011 | UPDATED: 14:58 20 July 2011
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Families in Norwich are to be asked to pick and choose from a list of almost £1m of proposed cuts to front-line council services, including plans which could see streets cleaned just once a month and the number of Christmas lights in the city slashed.
Norwich City Council needs to make £4.6m in savings in the next financial year and today launched a consultation asking the public to help decide how to do that. Having made millions of pounds of savings behind the scenes over the past three years, officers have warned it is now impossible to deliver future savings without hitting public services.
So City Hall has started a 12-week consultation called Your Services, Your Say, which includes a questionnaire listing specific services which would save just under £1m if they were all cut.
The council says it needs to identify £600,000 of savings from that list, so it is up to the public to decide which services are most important to them and deserve to be spared the axe.
Among the suggested cuts are:
Only cleaning streets once a month, apart from a small number of city centre areas such as Prince of Wales Road, to save £110,000.
Saving £20,000 by cutting the number of Christmas lights in the city by a third.
Increasing the cost of burials from £518 to £630.
Hiking the cost of renting an allotment.
Closing under-used public toilets such as Tombland and St Saviours to save £20,000 a year.
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, pictured, said: “We have got to take some very tough decisions, but this is also a chance for the public to tell us how they think we should be spending the money we have got.
“We have been making savings over the past three years which has protected front-line services, but we are in a position now where we need to have a genuine consultation with the public about those services.
“The heads of each service have looked at their departments and talked to the portfolio holders about what is important and where savings might be able to be made. My view is that this is now out for proper consultation. We have put forward a list of services which would save more money than we actually need to save, so this really is a choice for people.”
Officers are already looking to save £3.6m by becoming more efficient, new ways of working and cutting service costs, which looks certain to mean a loss of jobs at City Hall, although the details of that have yet to be finalised.
Speaking at a council meeting last night Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition Green Party group, said: “I’d like to have seen an opportunity for people to make their own decisions, rather than just ticking boxes. I hope the real thoughts and feelings of city residents will be found and taken into account and the future shape of the council will be fit for purpose.”
Judith Lubbock, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said she welcomed the attempt to make savings, but said the consultation was “rather superficial”. She said her group would carry out its own consultation, asking people about a wider range of issues, including the pay of senior officers at City Hall.
On top of the £600,000 savings on front-line services, the council says it can save a further £150,000 if people change the way they contact the council, using the internet rather than visiting City Hall or neighbourhood offices.
And the council says if it cuts opening hours of council offices by two hours per day for telephone calls and in person visits it would save about £60,000 a year. The city council says it can make at least £370,000 further savings by making other changes to the way it works. At this stage the council has not revealed what that will entail, but said there will be separate consultations in the weeks ahead with groups and individuals affected.
The eight-page document is published on-line at www.norwich.gov.uk today and consultation runs until October 12. The cabinet will consider the responses on November 9 and use the results to prepare its budget for next February.
While paper copies will be available to those who request them, by calling 0344 980 3333.
The council hopes to save money by not sending them out to everyone in Norwich, instead encouraging people to fill it in on the authority’s website.
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