Written evidence submitted by Norfolk County Council [SRF 003]

 

About Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council is committed to making Norfolk a county where businesses, organisations, individuals and communities continue to thrive together. Together, for Norfolk, sets out our plan to grow our economy, manage development and achieve better futures and outcomes for everyone who lives and works here.

We’re the fifth largest shire county in England, with a population in urban and rural areas of nearly 900,000 – forecast to grow to more than a million by 2036. We face some key challenges as a county; 60% of the population aged 65+ live in a rural area and, more than 120,000 people in Norfolk live in areas categorised as the most deprived 20% in England located in the urban areas of Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Thetford and King’s Lynn, together with some identified pockets of deprivation in rural areas, coastal villages and market towns.[1]

We are one of the largest county economies with more than 37,000 businesses, 348,000 jobs – worth £18 billion – and a net contributor to the UK economy.

Summary of key points

Norfolk County Council is focused on supporting our communities through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond as we look to rebuild our economy, get people back to work and level up inequalities. 

That is why securing both the immediate and long-term sustainability of our local services must be the top priority, through:

  1. Introduction

Norfolk County Council (the ‘Council’) supports the aim of the inquiry to consider how effective the existing funding set-up for local government is in providing resources to meet need and demand for local services both now and in the future, and welcomes the opportunity to respond to highlight some of the challenges it faces as a large rural county, in the context of ongoing financial constraints, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic is already having a profound impact on the economy. Locally led action has been, and will continue to be, key to ensuring that the economy recovers. Empowered with the right resources and flexibilities, local government plays a central role in supporting communities, restarting the local economy and in delivering long term economic, social and environmental transformation.

However, critical reforms to local government funding remain outstanding. These include the Fair Funding Review, Business Rates localisation, and reform of adult social care. The continued and repeated delays and lack of clarity surrounding all of these long overdue reforms, alongside the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of a long-term funding settlement for local government, combine to establish an almost unprecedented climate of uncertainty for local authorities which must be resolved.

  1. The approach the Government should take to local government funding as part of the 2020 Spending Review and what the key features of that settlement should be.

Government must honour the 2019 election Conservative manifesto to invest in public services and increase the quantum of funding available for local government both now and for the future. The prioritisation of significant and much needed, planned reforms to local government finance must be delivered to address the financial challenges facing councils across the country.

Recognise the importance of, and adequately fund, Social Care

Provide adequate funding for schools and address the High Needs Block deficit

Recognise the importance of adequately funded local Public Health services

Levelling up through greater infrastructure investment

Address unfunded pressures

Deliver the Fair Funding Review

Reform council tax to address inequalities

Provide clarity about Business Rates reform

Zero Carbon economy

  1. The current financial situation of councils, how this has affected their ability to deliver services and the demand for services, including adult social care.

Local government has absorbed the impact of significant funding reductions since 2010-11, delivering efficiency savings while maintaining vital local services. However, the ability to continue to do this has now been almost completely exhausted and any opportunities to reprioritise and deliver further savings are limited unless the quantum of funding is increased or the responsibilities of local government are reviewed. Any further savings are therefore likely to have a direct impact on service delivery.

Adult Social Care

Children’s Services

Schools

Public Health

 

Other

  1. What the financial challenges facing councils are as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including lost income and local tax losses.

Local government has provided, and continues to provide, a critical role at the forefront of the UK’s response to the pandemic. COVID-19 has caused a seismic and immediate refocus of services, process and planning. Transfers of responsibility from the Government to the Council is ever growing.

The Council has redeployed staff to target support to local businesses and residents. The efforts of the care sector have contributed significantly in easing the pressure on the NHS. Local government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been applauded by many, with the World Health Organisation advocating locally led responses to the pandemic.

The financial consequences of this continue to emerge, but it is having a material impact on the Council’s budget. There continues to be significant influences beyond the Council’s control that will make delivery of necessary savings difficult considering COVID-related restrictions, further waves, potential surge in demand and ongoing recovery planning.

Public Health

Adult Social Care

Children’s Services

Help for those in financial hardship

Other areas of impact

Local economic recovery

  1. What the impact is of another one-year spending review and a further delay to a multi-year settlement and the Fair Funding Review.

 

November 2020


[1] Statistics from Norfolk Joint Strategic Needs Assessment http://www.norfolkinsight.org.uk/jsna/

[2] The Health Foundation and The King’s Fund, 2019

[3] https://www.countycouncilsnetwork.org.uk/county-motorists-poor-relation-to-urban-areas-as-new-analysis-reveals-roads-investment-three-times-higher-in-london/

[4] https://www.a47alliance.co.uk/

[5] https://www.countycouncilsnetwork.org.uk/rural-residents-in-shire-counties-face-the-highest-council-tax-bills-in-england/

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/core-spending-power-provisional-local-government-finance-settlement-2020-to-2021

[7] https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/news/response-to-public-health-grant