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Nowich families face £1.5m City Hall service cuts

Norwich's City Hall, the base of Norwich City Council.

Norwich's City Hall, the base of Norwich City Council.

EDP pics © 2007

Families across Norwich have been warned that £1.5m may be cut from the amount of money the city council spends on frontline services next year.

With City Hall grappling to make £12.2m savings over the next four years, officers have warned it is impossible to deliver those savings without an impact on the public.

The council has yet to reveal where the axe could fall, but top councillors will discuss a confidential report detailing the options at a meeting of the cabinet next week.

That comes ahead of a 
12-week consultation with the public over the proposals, which will start at the end of this month.

Brenda Arthur, right, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “We have got to a point where we have to make choices and, in the spirit of listening to the people of Norwich, that is why we are going out to consultation.

“It is about cuts, but also about making best use of the money we have got. I am grateful that the work we have done to make savings over the past three years has enabled us to wait to have this consultation.

“We want to ensure the public sector provides the best service we possibly can, while providing value for money. I hope people will see we will be clear in giving information and asking people to make an informed choice as to how we spend money in what are challenging times.”

City Hall officers say the amount of money it gets from the government, known as the formula grant, was cut by more than 29pc between 2010/11 and 2011/12 – a reduction from £15.1m to £11.2m.

A programme had already been put in place to find £13.5m of savings through efficiency savings and reductions to management and back office services.

And for this financial year – 2011/12 – 
it was determined that £1.85m needed to be saved, giving the council time to consider future savings without a major impact on front-line service.

The council held back £850,000 from spending and plundered £1m from reserves, but officers say it is now “deemed prudent” to focus its efforts on delivering savings over the next two years – which adds £4.6m on top of the £850,000 to be banked for the rest of the current financial year.

The report, which will go before the cabinet next Wednesday, states: “Wherever possible, savings options that won’t directly impact service levels to the public have been put forward.

“However, the council has already managed to deliver savings of £13.5m over the past three years without significantly impacting frontline services.

“This has been achieved at the same time as improving a key range of services including housing, recycling and planning.

“To deliver further significant savings without any impact on the public is not viable.”

Officers have identified £5.05m of possible savings - £3.58m of which would come from efficiencies, “new ways of working” and cutting service costs.

But officers acknowledge that alone will not close the budget gap, so a further £1.46m of savings will need to be found from changes in the level of service or the way the council provides a service.

The consultation is due, pending the go-ahead from full council, to begin on July 20 and continue until October 12.

It has also emerged that a specific consultation will be carried out over the future of the council’s sheltered housing service.

The city council currently manages 28 sheltered housing schemes across the city, providing about 1,000 homes, all of which have a scheme manager.

Those schemes are funded via the Supporting People programme, but the government has cut how much is available for that programme.

Norfolk County Council has already held its Big Conversation with the public and rubber-stamped £60m of cuts for this year as part of £155m savings over the next three years.

The county council will have axed 750 full-time equivalent posts by the end of this year, as part of a three-year plan to shed 1,300 jobs.

• Do you have a story about a local council? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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