Norfolk County Council budget cuts to be decided today

Annabelle Dickson

Monday, February 14, 2011

9:15 AM

Controversial plans to cut nearly £60m from county council services and axe the equivalent of 750 full-time jobs will be decided at a Norfolk County Council meeting today.

Opponents to the plans came forward with alternative 11th hour proposals, but the controlling Conservative are likely to ensure the plans are given the green light at the full-council meeting at County Hall at 10am.

The lobby group Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts are holding demonstrations outside Norfolk County Hall today as part of a protest at cuts in jobs and services.

The plans follow a “Big Conversation” with residents across the county, which saw the cabinet row back from controversial proposals to tighten up the eligibility criteria for older people to access care, as well as rethinking plans to scrap a subsidy for post-16 transport for college students, following overwhelming opposition.

The authority also wants to use around £10m of government cash earmarked for social care to stave off some of those cuts and create a £5m prevention fund.

But opponents are unhappy about the cuts which are still planned, particularly the scrapping of the youth service, the redesign of day services, and the closure of the Unthank Family Centre in Norwich.

Norfolk County Council’s ruling cabinet recommended the budget plans which include a series of cuts across all departments and job losses.

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New blue badge parking crackdown

14 February 2011 Last updated at 12:18

New blue badge parking crackdown

A crackdown on abuse of the disabled “blue badge” parking scheme has been announced by ministers.

It is estimated that use of up to half of the existing 2.5 million badges could be fraudulent, costing the UK an estimated £46m a year.

More people are to face mobility tests to get the badges, which offer special parking rights, and councils will have greater powers of confiscation.

Use of blue badges has soared by more than a third in the last 10 years.

The badges allow access to special parking or the right to avoid parking restrictions.

They are issued to people who are registered blind, receive a war pensioner’s mobility supplement or higher rate disability living allowance, and to other people with mobility problems who undergo an assessment.

A Department for Transport statement said: “Increasing levels of badge fraud mean those who genuinely need to use these parking spaces often find themselves displaced by people who do not.”

The new measures, due to come into force from April, will include:

On-the-spot powers for local authorities to recover misused and cancelled badges

Wider use of independent mobility assessments to determine eligibility

Printed badges with anti-fraud holograms and bearer photographs to replace current handwritten badges

Transport minister Norman Baker said the scheme was “in real need of modernisation”, having undergone little change since it was introduced in the 70s.

“These improvements will mean that blue badge holders get a much better service for less than 1p per day,” he said.


Helen Dolphin, who co-ordinates policy for the disabled motorists charity Mobilise, has said there is a need for much greater consistency with councils taking more care over who received the badges

And Ms Dolphin wants people to be educated about their proper use: “A lot of family members think they can use it even without the disabled person being in the car.

“There are many cases of carers thinking they can use it to park when they go shopping,” she said.

Paul Slowey, of Blue Badge Fraud Investigation Ltd, which investigates blue badge abuse on behalf of councils, says that in some city areas up to 50% of badges are being wrongly used.

He says the powers are there for local authorities to mount prosecutions for fraud when they detect misuse, but “historically enforcement has been dreadful”.

Mr Slowey points to the rail network, where ticket fraud fell after companies introduced strict measures aimed at fare-dodgers.

“If the use of blue badges is enforced properly then the scheme will function as it should,” he said

Growing Public Fears Over ‘Unfair’ Cuts

Growing Public Fears Over ‘Unfair’ Cuts

0:36am UK, Sunday February 13, 2011

Steph Oliver, Sky News Online

Nearly two out of three voters believe the Government’s spending cuts are unfair, according to a new opinion poll.

Many voters do not support the coalition’s spending cuts

The ComRes poll found 63% thought the impact would be felt more by poorer households than the better off, while 57% thought the Government was cutting too far and too fast.

Almost 69% thought that they would be worse off personally as a result of the coalition’s measures, compared to 66% in the last survey.

The findings come as shadow chancellor Ed Balls has accused David Cameron of taking Britain back to the era of “nasty confrontation” which marked Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister.

Mr Balls said in a TV interview that the Government was playing a “dangerous game” with its programme of spending cuts, mounting what he described as a “real assault” on public services.

He said that the coalition’s leadership – Mr Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – were out of touch with the realities of life facing ordinary voters.

“People remember the 1980s – deep cuts, trouble in the streets and Margaret Thatcher goading confrontation, blaming local councils.”

“David Cameron is taking us back to those days. I think he is making a really, really unwise choice here,” he added.

Mr Balls comments follow remarks made yesterday by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke who warned the middles classes did not yet fully understand what was about to hit them.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Clarke described the current economic situation as “calamitous” and warned that there would be no “quick rebound”.

Overall, the poll puts Labour on 42%, up two points since January and six points ahead of the Conservatives who are unchanged on 36%.

The Liberal Democrats are up one on 11%.