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Town projects saved as council tries to save cash

PUBLISHED: 06:59 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:06 07 July 2010

Key projects in the Fakenham and Wells areas are being safeguarded despite North Norfolk District Council having to shave £500,000 off its budget.

The loss of 11 posts from the 320-strong workforce is part of a package of savings and efficiencies at the Cromer-based council.

Key projects in the Fakenham and Wells areas are being safeguarded despite North Norfolk District Council having to shave £500,000 off its budget.

The loss of 11 posts from the 320-strong workforce is part of a package of savings and efficiencies at the Cromer-based council.

Job pruning, which aims to avoid forced redundancies, will save £280,000 next year - and knock £7 off a Band D council tax payer's bill.

It is a major slice of the £500,000 a year the council needs to save over the next three years to balance its £16m budget in the face of mounting pressures.

The council is pressing ahead with £6.3m worth of spending schemes next year, paid for from grants and the sale of council assets such as old toilets and a depot.

They include extending a Fakenham factory to help a firm expand and stay in the area (£425,000), -improvements to Wells Maltings and Sackhouse to improve community use (£169,000), playground improvements across the district (£243,000), new car park ticket machines (£135,000), environmental improvements to car parks (£100,000) and extra beach huts to help cope with demand (£45,000).

Deputy chief executive Sheila Oxtoby said the good spread of investment across the district answered those who felt the council poured all its cash into the coastal resorts of Cromer and Sheringham.

The authority is hoping to peg the rise of its part of the council tax bill to just 2.8pc - an extra £3.78 a year, or 7p a week for a Band D householder whose district demand will be £138.87, if the budget is agreed by cabinet next Monday and full council next month.

Cabinet resources member Peter Moore said council managers were asked seek 6pc cuts in their sections, but the proposed efficiencies aimed to ensure there was no reduction in service to the public.

“We want the quality of life to be as good as it is now,” he added.

It would have been possible to cut services such as leisure which the council did not have to provide by law, but it would not meet the authority's wider aims of promoting health.

Mrs Oxtoby said all staff had been approached about taking voluntary redundancy or early retirement and it was hoped to avoid any enforced job losses.

Other savings included internal efficiencies and seeking a 10pc reduction in insurance through teaming up with other councils around the country.

Car park season tickets were due to be increased, to bring in another £30,000, but hourly rates pegged to support local people and businesses.

The measures closed a £500,000 budget gap, but were not helped by Norfolk County Council's 11th hour change in the way second home council tax was used.

The unexpected switch cost North Norfolk £275,000 in affordable housing cash that had to be found from its reserves - an exercise that could only be done once however, added Mrs Oxtoby.

The late notification was “disappointing and unacceptable” as the council tried to “downsize an organisation in a structured way”, she added.

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