Council on target for £60 million savings and working towards another Council Tax freeze

WITH Norfolk County Council forecast to deliver the £60 million savings target for the current financial year, a report to be considered by the council’s Cabinet on Monday (September 12) tells that nearly £75m of savings will still have to be found over the coming two years.

However, the report offers hope for council taxpayers with news that the council is planning for Council Tax to be frozen for the second year running.

The ‘Service and Financial Planning 2012/14’ report explains that the Government’s spending review left the authority facing an ‘unprecedented financial challenge’, needing to find savings of up to £155m over a three year period, to 2014.

The report outlines that in the council’s biggest ever consultation – the Big Conversation, it consulted in detail on a series of proposals that would help deliver the 2011-12 budget - and go a long way to realising the full savings required over a three year period.

The paper outlines how the £60 million overall savings target for 2011/12 is ‘forecast to be delivered’ and that a review of the forecast position reported to County Council in February has been undertaken, with a revised projected shortfall of nearly £75 million outlined for the next two years (2012/13 and 13/14).

The report tells that the council’s financial planning assumptions for the next two years do not include raising additional funding from an increase in council tax, with service and financial planning being done on the basis of a council ‘tax freeze in both 2012-13 and 2013-14’.

A final decision on council tax for 2012-13 will be made by the County Council in February 2012 when councillors agree the budget for the year ahead.

Ian Mackie, Norfolk County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, said: “I am delighted that the County Council is on target to meet its savings targets for 2011/12. An enormous amount of work by staff and councillors has been going on in order to transform many of our services. Our efficiencies programme has left no stone unturned in order to balance the budget and support frontline services as best as possible. This report demonstrates just how well the County Council is doing in soundly managing its resources.

“With over half of this financial year remaining we must continue to monitor progress closely and seek out even more efficiencies wherever possible, however this report demonstrates that we are very much on track.

“We know that many households in Norfolk are under considerable financial pressure from rising costs and bills. The County Council also faces these rising costs, however we are equally determined to do everything we can not to add to household financial concerns during this very difficult period for our country.

“Therefore, I am pleased to report we will again be planning the 2012/13 budget on a zero council tax increase - this will be unprecedented in the history of the council to have two years at zero council tax increase.

“I am keen to ensure the 2012/13 budget builds on the success of the last year as we navigate the council through unprecedented change. I am convinced we must do the right thing for Norfolk and do whatever we can to maintain high quality services without adding to the burden of hard-pressed household budgets.”

The report to the Cabinet meeting on Monday also asks Cabinet to consider whether Fire and Rescue Service savings identified to be made during 2013-14 can be delivered over a longer time frame than originally intended in order to minimise risk to service delivery.

Cll Mackie added: “A vital aspect of the Council’s approach is to continue to direct funding to front-line services, and very few services come as close to the front-line as our Fire and Rescue Service.

That is why on September 12 Cabinet will be reviewing the savings time-scale, so as to protect as much of the front-line as we can.”

• Cabinet will meet in the Edwards Room at County Hall at 10.30am on Monday September 12 and members of the public are welcome to attend.