Council tax rise set to be low
NORFOLK householders were today promised one of the lowest council tax rises in more than a decade.However, in unveiling a 2.95pc hike in bills for its share of services County Hall leader Daniel Cox warned of “pain” in some quarters and a recruitment freeze in key departments in order to pay for it.
NORFOLK householders were today promised one of the lowest council tax rises in more than a decade.
However, in unveiling a 2.95pc hike in bills for its share of services County Hall leader Daniel Cox warned of “pain” in some quarters and a recruitment freeze in key departments in order to pay for it.
The council has received an extra �21m from the government and Mr Cox is recommending the increase together with a �10.3m savings package as part of a �559.9m budget, which he said would see priority given to frontline services.
The proposals mean that average band D bills would rise by 63p a week or �32.22 a year to �1,123.74, though final bills will be higher when the district councils and police authority have added their rates to the total.
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Mr Cox said he had three aims - maintaining a pledge for a below inflation rise, keeping public services “strong and secure” and providing measures to help safeguard Norfolk's economy.
But falling interest rates has seen a �9m drop in income for the year including �450,000 lost following the Icelandic Banking crises, where the authority has �32.5m tied up. The authority is also �24m short because of a government funding formula which sees cash earmarked for Norfolk redistributed to other parts of the country.
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“This will not be a comfortable year for our services, or indeed for any public services anywhere because of the lack of room for flexibility or further stretch - even in the demand led services for children and older people where needs continue to rise,” he said.
“This is a budget that requires all our service budgets to work even harder and stretch further, so it is not without risk or potential pain in some quarters. But it is counterbalanced by a planning approach that also enables progress on all the objectives we have set for the authority and the people we serve.”
But the big ticket county council services will all be expected to make huge savings including �18.7m in adult social care, �5.1m in children's services and �2m in planning and transportation.
Spending measures include building four new primary schools at Castle Acre, Earsham, Hempnall, Seething and Mundham and a new pupil referral unit in Norwich. There is also �1.3m to upgrade Yarmouth Library and the Mammals gallery at Norwich Castle Museum and cash for a new campaign to promote Norfolk as a place to do business. Funding for rural fire services will also receive a �330,000 boost.
The budget plans will see 60 jobs go including a recruitment freeze on 39 social services posts, and the loss of 13 library staff. The authority was also privatising a care and assessment service for the elderly.
Opposition councillors said they still wanted to look at the detail of the budget, which will be discussed by the cabinet on Monday, before a full council vote on February 16.