Communities Committee to debate budget saving ideas
Members of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee meet next week (Wednesday 9 September) to consider how a range of important services could look in three years’ time based on 75% of its current addressable spending.*
Norfolk County Council is having to radically change its role and the way it delivers services. Since 2011, the council has made savings of £244 million from service budgets and frozen council tax five years in a row.
Continuing reductions in government grant and increasing demands for council services mean that council committees are having to look closely at possible options during September and October, before drawing up a list of firm proposals to go out to the public via a consultation later this autumn.
Whilst the predicted shortfall for the next three years for the county council is forecast to be £111m, the Council is modelling its future services based on a larger shortfall figure of £169m. This is so that councillors can have choices and options about how best to prioritise council spending across its services.
During September and October, all committees of the council have been asked to set out how they would deliver services with 75% of their addressable (‘non-fixed’) budget, bringing forward initial ideas and savings proposals to bridge the gap over the next three years.
The Communities committee covers services such as Norfolk Library and Information Service and Museums Service, Norfolk Record Office, Public Health, Trading Standards and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.
The report to councillors outlines the changes to the Fire and Rescue Service that would be required if a 25% cut in addressable spend was necessary, with a reduced number of fire stations and appliances.
Highlighting what other areas under the committee’s responsibility would look like based on 75% of addressable spend in three years’ time, the report outlines:
Additional investment in self-service technology would enable Library and Information Service buildings to be used by customers and other organisations for longer each day. This spending would be partially financed by a reduction in stock and staff across the service, with the Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library reducing its fully-staffed opening hours.
Larger libraries would offer a wider range of stock and services than smaller sites, with a slight reduction in mobile library provision.
The Norfolk Museums Service would differentiate its services in ‘major sites and community sites’ - the major sites would be Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse, and the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life.
The seven remaining sites would be reclassified as community sites.
Trading Standards would reduce staffing numbers to deliver its core statutory enforcement duties and the Arts Service would work in partnership to generate more income to help to compensate for reduced arts grants.
The Norfolk Record Office would have shorter opening hours with its available archive specialist at the County Hall site.
The Registration Service would need to reduce costs or increase income, or a combination of both.
Paul Smyth, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “We have been tasked with dramatically rethinking the way the County Council works. The damaging combination of diminishing resources and a growing demand for services means we face an unprecedented challenge, and I acknowledge at the outset that it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach the levels of savings we have been asked to achieve without there being a significant impact on services.
“However, the committee must consider changes it might be able to make across the many service areas it has responsibility for, including the Fire and Rescue Service, but I would stress that no decisions or firm proposals are being made at this stage, these are ideas for discussion and debate to be fed back to the Policy and Resources Committee.”
The same committee meeting will also consider reports and recommendations by two councillor working groups on options for change in both the Fire and Rescue and Library Services.
More detailed options will be brought to the October meeting of the Communities Committee ahead of public consultation which follows the meeting of the Policy and Resources committee on 26 October 2015.
This will run until midnight on Thursday 14 January 2016 prior to a final decision next February. If people have views on how ideas are being developed please email [email protected] If you would like to raise any issues with your county councillor you can find out who they are and how to contact them via the County Council’s website (www.norfolk.gov.uk).
The Communities Committee meeting will be held at 10am on Wednesday 9 September in the Edwards Room, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich. Members of the public are welcome to attend.