Council leaders face hard decisions

THE leaders of a Norfolk council last night said they were facing more tough decisions, despite making more than �2m of savings in response to the recession.

THE leaders of a Norfolk council last night said they were facing more tough decisions, despite making more than �2m of savings in response to the recession.

South Norfolk Council has shed around 40 jobs over the last six months and cut some services following a major restructure aimed at meeting the challenge of the global economic downturn.

Officials from the district council yesterday warned that residents could face a 2.5pc rise in council tax next year if local authorities fall victim to severe central government cuts.

Tory leader John Fuller said the authority was in a “strong position” for the future, which could see government grants reduced by 10pc in future years.

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The warning comes after South Norfolk Council reviewed every one of its 400 part and full-time posts as part of a top-to-bottom restructure to slash �2m from its �14m budget.

A cabinet report shows that around �500,000 of savings were made by making cuts to departments, including senior management, housing support, revenues and benefits, rural services and conservation teams, planning, and leisure centre managers.

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The almost 40 job losses have been made through “natural wastage” and not through compulsory redundancies. The council will also save more than �100,000 by no longer directly funding cultural events in the district.

Mr Fuller said the council's 2009/10 budget had been revised without dipping into council reserves.

“Whoever wins the general election there maybe further cuts in grants and additional pressures on public sector pensions. We do not know what is around the corner, but we have got ourselves into the strongest position possible.”

“We have now got a much more team based way of working and it is a more robust authority and we are confident that the public should not notice a huge difference. We are still determined to be the best authority in Norfolk,” he said.

But Trevor Lewis, deputy leader of the South Norfolk Liberal Democrat group, said the Conservative administration was leaving gaps in council services.

“It is death by a thousand cuts. I am sure all statutory responsibilities will be met, but we are putting the council's excellent status at risk,” he said.

Chief executive Sandra Dinneen added that the council was looking at other ways to work more efficiently.

“Inevitably, there will be a small number of service reductions, but in the vast majority of areas, we have maintained or improved services through smarter and more innovative ways of working. Local government is no longer safeguarded from the realities of economic life,” she said.

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