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Norfolk County Council debate to save £125m over the next four years

PUBLISHED: 07:44 03 July 2017 | UPDATED: 07:53 03 July 2017

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich. Picture Julian Nicholls.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich. Picture Julian Nicholls.

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Major plans to find £125m worth of savings over the next four years from the Norfolk County Council budget will be discussed by councillors today.

The authority’s policy and resources committee is meeting at 10am.

A major shake-up is on the cards as the authority seeks to save money - with the council exploring whether it could close day centres and libraries as part of its drive to shave millions of pounds.

Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council, said the public’s relationship with the county council – and what people expect - would have to change.

She said the authority cannot keep “cutting limbs off” on top of £334m already saved since 2011.

The council’s vision for the next four years will see an attempt to “manage demand” for children and adult social care, by supporting people to be more self-reliant within their communities.

More than £30m needs to be cut from adult social care. The council wants to move away from what it says is costly residential care.

Day centres for people with learning disabilities and autism could close.

The council would offer activities in workplaces, colleges, leisure venues and community centres, while developing people’s skills and confidence to live independently, with support.

Dr Thomson said: “We are working on pretty challenging plans, which may mean putting services together strategically, rather than having all these libraries or day centres spread out.

“Maybe we can put them together in newly created hubs in the right place – that’s one of the ideas we are looking at.

“Some of those day centres date back to the 1960s and 1970s and maybe they are not so great. Let’s celebrate the new ones we would be providing.”

Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of the council, said people had become too dependent upon council services.

He said: “We want them to take control of their lives. We are not stopping caring. We will continue to do that, but we want to help people to help themselves. It’s about everyone working together.

“What we will do is put the building blocks in place to help people to achieve that.”

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group, said: “It’s their government and their austerity programme which has got us here, and it’s people in this county who are going to get punished.”

The boss of a charity which champions disability rights has said it would be a huge shock to people who have become dependent on day centres if they were to close.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “On the one hand it’s to be welcomed, as most of the day services are stuck in the 1960s.

“But the problem is that people have become dependent on it and these aren’t young people - these are people in their 40s. It will be a big shock for them and very difficult to move that particular group on.

“If it is to happen, then it needs to be done properly, not just driven by savings. And it needs to be led by disabled people themselves.”

Meanwhile, an extra 50 social workers could be heading to Norfolk to help clear a backlog of work - thanks to £35m of government funding.

The one-off funding has been provided to help the council manage pressures in the health and social care system and the council wants to hire more workers to tackle a backlog of 2,500-2,900 pieces of work.

Bill Borrett, chairman of the adult social care committee, said: “This is an historic problem, which has existed for a number of years and I would like to address this with the new money.”

The committee will decide a week on Monday how to spend the money.

The expansion of prevention schemes and re-ablement assistance for people discharged from hospital, but not yet ready to go home, are among other proposals for how to spend the extra cash in a department which will have to find £31m of savings within four years.

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