"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Norwich council leader’s stinging attack on the government

The leader of Norwich City Council today launched a stinging attack on the government as a plan for massive cuts edges nearer to approval.

Council staff have been consulted about a blueprint that could see job losses at City Hall and cuts to frontline services as the city struggles to save £7.5m in the next two years.

The cuts, which amount to 15pc of the council’s controllable budget, will have an unavoidable impact on services and staff, who face a fresh period of uncertainty about their jobs.

The authority, which has already cut spending by more than £10m in the last two years, said the changes were needed in the wake of government plans to cut public spending by 25pc in the next four years.

City council leader Steve Morphew called the plans “a great disappointment”, adding: “They are ill thought out and will be damaging.

“Much as we will resist being scapegoated for the deficit problems caused by the failure of the banks, we are nevertheless faced with having to deal with the problems.”

He admitted that the severity of the situation would affect the quality of services offered to Norwich families, saying: “There is no way we can continue to deliver the same services to the same level with the resources available.

“It is too early to say exactly what the impact is but we are pledged to protect the most vulnerable in our city and continue the fight for jobs, homes and prosperity.”

And he lashed out at the description of some council positions as “non jobs”, saying: “Suggestions for cuts made by some because they think they are services not worth bothering with are actually vital services for others in the community.”

Strategic managers, trade unions and other staff members have been consulted on the council’s draft blueprint, which will guide the authority through the straitened times ahead.

A revised version with their comments taken into account will go before a meeting of the Executive tomorrow.

Once it has been through the approval process the document will be used as a guide to help identify more specific efficiency proposals.

The council is proposing a timetable from June to April 2011 which envisages a “new staffing structure” to be in place by then.

And it believes it is well placed to make the changes thanks to the work of the corporate improvement and efficiency programme it set in train last year, set up in the wake of criticisms about how it was operating.

Staff will learn their fate in December after an assessment and selection process is carried out.

Officers are also now looking at where to make savings in a number of areas including sharing services with other councils, ICT and “income maximisation and collection”.


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