Proposed council cuts to adult social care and cultural services in Norfolk

Proposed cuts to adult social care and cultural services discussed by Norfolk county councillors

Proposed council cuts to adult social care and cultural services in Norfolk were the subject of debate at County Hall.

Norfolk County Council has proposed £140m worth of cuts and savings over the next three years, and today the council’s Community Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel looked specifically at those relating to adult social care and cultural services.

Prior to the meeting getting under way Green party councillor Richard Bearman presented to the panel’s chairman, Shelagh Gurney, a petition with nearly 600 signatures which opposed the proposed cuts to personal budgets, care packages and preventative services, and called on the council to make social care a top priority.

In a presentation given by cabinet members Sue Whitaker (adult social care) and Margaret Wilkinson (cultural services), members heard more than 4,400 people had responded to the council’s ‘Norfolk Putting People First’ Budget Consultation 2014/17 and that many had felt supporting vulnerable people should be a priority. The most commented-on proposal was about reducing the transport subsidy for 16 to 19-year-old students, and issues surrounding libraries also generated a lot of responses, while many people felt that overall the council’s proposals affected vulnerable people the most.

About 26pc of people who responded supported the council tax freeze, but about 55pc were in favour of a small increase with many wanting clarity on what any increase would be spent on.

The cultural services budget proposals consulted on include making a saving of more than £1.2m, with the proposals including charging for some activities in libraries and closing the Norfolk Record Office on Saturday mornings.

The adult social care budget proposals consulted on would save more than £27m, including saving £12m by reducing funding for wellbeing activities for people receiving support from adult social care through a personal budget.

Sue Whitaker said the council’s current budget was unsustainable going forward.

She also said that the council did not want to cut services to then find further down the line that someone ends up needing a service “much more costly and devastating for them.”

She spoke of the need for organisations to work together, and she also said everyone affected would have a face-to-face interview for their annual assessment of the wellbeing services help they receive.

Margaret Somerville asked how the rhetoric of “putting people first” fitted with a cut of £12m for “the most vulnerable group of people in the community,” while Emma Corlett said she was “extremely concerned” about the potential impact of any reduction in personal budgets.

Bert Bremner said the proposed cuts were a direct consequence of the 2010 general election, while Brian Hannah said it was important for councillors to work together and try to do the best for Norfolk.

Joe Mooney said he hoped adjustments to the budgets could be made by looking at efficiency, and by cutting waste not services, and also looking at generating income.

“We should do all we can to protect the vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

Following the meeting, David Peel, from Norfolk People’s Assembly, which along with disability campaign group Equal Lives and the Green Party was also involved in the petition handed in at the beginning of the meeting, said: “Norfolk People’s Assembly, and other anti austerity movements remain the only real opposition to cuts which are tearing the fabric of our care system apart.”

The county council cabinet’s final savings proposals will go before a meeting of the full council on Monday, February 17, where the 2014/15 council budget is due to be agreed.