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Row as consultation into £16m savings branded 'confusing'

PUBLISHED: 19:02 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 20:06 22 October 2019

Steve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A decision to consult the public over a further £16m in savings has been branded "confusing" and "disgraceful" at a meeting.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: ArchantNorfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Archant

Norfolk County Council's scrutiny committee 'called-in' the Conservative-controlled cabinet's decision to put plans for 2020/21 budget proposals to the public, saying there was not enough detail to merit an informed response.

The plans, which will mean a further £15.8m in savings has to be found, on top of just over £31m already agreed, will see an almost 4pc council tax rise, £7.2m in savings at adult social services and £3.8m saved from children's services. They will be put to the public for a response until the end of the year, before the council outlines specific budget proposals in January.

But at a scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, October 22, councillors disagreed over the wording of the cabinet's decision.

The opposition argued the public should be given more detail in order to respond to the plans, while a council legal officer said the proposals were simply budget outlines, and specific savings or service changes would undergo a separate consultation process.

Scrutiny committee chairman and leader of the Labour group Steve Morphew said: "The call-in is because, I certainly believe, there is not enough information in there for a proper consultation to take place with the public and for councillors to understand what's being proposed."

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And Tim Adams, Liberal Democrat councillor, said: "These are serious issues which people's lives will be affected by.

"To consider that the public should not be consulted is embarrassing and disrespectful."

He claimed the council were avoiding "delving into the detail", which he called "disgraceful".

Labour councillor Emma Corlett claimed the public would find the decision "confusing".

But Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, told the committee: "Consultation is not required when a council is considering a budget."

He added that the council had gone beyond the legal requirement for consultation, and said: "We would always like to have a fair, open and transparent decision on these matters and that is what I think this process is."

Helen Edwards, chief legal and monitoring officer, added: "It's never the case that at this stage we would have worked up proposals."

The committee voted against returning the decision to cabinet.

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