£8m boost for Norfolk’s roads, schools and vulnerable

By DAN GRIMMER
Monday, January 7, 2013
3.19 PM

Almost £8m of council cash is to be made available to spend on fixing Norfolk’s roads. improving schools, protecting the county’s elderly population and helping vulnerable families.

Norfolk County Council’s controlling cabinet announced the extra one-off funding would be made available, rather than the cash going into the authority’s reserves.

The money is available after the council received £3.4m from Whitehall in return for another council tax freeze, while some £3.5m comes from cash recovered from Icelandic Banks.

The county council had invested £32.5m in Icelandic banks which collapsed in October 2008 and was one of four councils involved in a successful test case to recover cash.

A further £750,000 has been made available from a reserve set aside for car leasing, but which councillors have decided should instead be spent on the front-line.

Exactly how the money will be spent will be decided by various council committees, when they set their budgets for the year ahead, but at today’s cabinet meeting, council leader Derrick Murphy outlined the cabinet’s “strong view” of where the money should be used. including:

• Investing more in prevention services for vulnerable older people

• Supporting vulnerable children and families

• School improvement work

• Investing in ‘critical highways improvement schemes’ to support communities and businesses

• Investing in schemes and projects which make a ‘day to day difference’ to communities - such as community construction projects, activities for young people and parish highways schemes.

Mr Murphy said: “As we do every year, we have reviewed our level of reserves, and we have also looked for any other potential one-off funding sources which could allow us to continue to invest in supporting local communities and individuals through these tough times.

“We continue to keep the level of all reserves under review and it is important for members to note that our levels are constantly below average levels of reserves compared with other shire counties.

“Cabinet considers the level of reserves every month in the light of an ongoing assessment of the financial risks facing the council now and in the future. “We must ensure we have enough to cover those risks, but we have no interest in banking for the sake of it. It is a fine balance, but one we believe we have got right.

“So whilst we could continue to hold the Icelandic Bank reserve and bank the further sum from the car leasing reserve, we believe we should use them now to invest in our county - helping make a real difference to people and communities who need extra help through these tough times.”

The council is in the midst of a review, known as Enterprising Norfolk, which will look to make the council more commercially minded, so it generates more income and is less reliant on government grants.