A report to Norfolk County Council’s cabinet will outline plans as to how to cover the £11.3m shortfall in funding to cover the cancellation costs of its Willows energy from waste and recycling centre project, and it could be at the expense of highways maintenance and a library book fund.
The Council voted to abandon the contract last month, but that left a total of around £30m to be paid for the planning failure. The report states that £19m was earmarked as a residual waste treatment contract reserve, leaving circa £11m. A £3m underspend for 2013/14 will reduce that figure and a £50,000 funding grant from the Government will also be used, but the Council is facing a £1m shortfall for the current financial year.
The Leader of Norfolk County Council, George Nobbs, said: “Nobody wanted to have to find this money and we always warned this process would not be without pain. Our finance team has done its very best to minimise the direct impact on services for Norfolk people. However, no matter how much we have tried to minimise the impact, it would be foolish to pretend that there won’t be some cuts that will hurt.
“We have decided to present two options to the Full Council for consideration – to either take £900,000 from highways maintenance and a further £140,000 from the libraries book fund or, alternatively, to find the missing £1m or so from about half of the money from second homes that the county council gives to district councils. Either way, neither option is an attractive one, but we have to find £30m to fund a sum that none of us wanted to have to pay.”
Finding £30m “Is Tough”
Steve Morphew, Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Personnel, said: “Having to find £30m at any time is tough and especially when we are already facing huge budget cuts. This administration has a grip on the budget so it is a challenge we will manage properly, but let’s not pretend it comes without real damage. We wanted to use that money to speed up service improvement and transformation. It is no secret that we inherited some areas where performance is simply not good enough. It requires time and money to be invested to transform services, and without the cash to inject progress will be much slower.
“It is properly described as a setback – it sets us back to having to tread water and make do with things as they are rather than as we know they could and should be. The pace of change slows and when we are asked for help by communities who want to make improvements we will have to dash their expectations.
“The decision council made was the right one but those who urged it upon us now need to step up and help deal with the consequences.”