The government has been warned that Norfolk leaders will not stop banging the drum to get more cash to protect vital rural services from the axe.

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Norfolk has been handed just under £600,000 to help keep vital services running in rural areas, but critics have said the government is still neglecting the countryside in favour of cities.

And the county’s council leaders, who had lobbied for extra cash, have pledged to keep fighting for a fair deal for Norfolk.

The money is a slice of an extra £8.5m “efficiency support” to be distributed following complaints councils serving sparsely populated areas have been underfunded - putting services such as rural buses and support for older people at risk.

Cash will be given to Norfolk County Council (£412,400), West Norfolk Council (£48,800) North Norfolk District Council (£44,500), Breckland District Council (£49,000) and South Norfolk Council (£26,500).

However, while council leaders welcomed the extra money. they said the government needs to recognise that rural areas like Norfolk, where it costs more to provide services, still need more help.

Harry Humphrey, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance and performance, said: “Norfolk, like many other predominantly rural counties, has to absorb the higher costs of delivering essential services, whilst as a rural county we also receive less government grant per head of population, when compared to urban areas.

“It is with this in mind that we, along with other rural councils, have been lobbying the government over a number of years for more funding to meet the extra costs that we face.

“I am pleased that the government has listened to us by way of providing us with this additional grant, which is helpful, but is some way from addressing the shortfall that we are suffering. We will continue to push for a fairer deal for Norfolk.”

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, agreed that the government needed to go further than a one-off grant.

He said: “We are very pleased that central government has listened to us and has at last recognised the fact that more needs to be done to support rural areas like North Norfolk, where it is simply more costly to provide the services the community needs than it is in urban areas.

“One size simply does not fit all in this case. As a rural district council we have been campaigning hard for a long time; we are also very grateful to our local MPs for the work they have done in Parliament to make the case on our behalf.

“We can only hope that this will not be a one-off hand-out but that the government’s new understanding of the reality of life in a rural area will be taken forward and developed within future grant settlements.”

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council, said: “We are pleased there has been recognition that it is more expensive to provide services in rural areas. We recognise we are not going to get the same as urban areas, but anything which closes the gap has to be welcomed.”

The extra money was announced by Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth MP and local government minister. He told Parliament: “Following consultation we have concluded that more needs to be done to further support rural areas.”

He said the government was aware the costs of providing services in highly rural areas could be more costly than in urban areas.

He said: “On top of that, we are providing £8.5m additional funding in 2013 to 2014 as a separate new transitional grant to help authorities secure efficiencies in services for sparsely populated areas.”

Bill Borrett, acting leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “I am really pleased that we are receiving this money and would like to thank the government for listening to us.

“Our budget proposals, which were presented to cabinet last month and which go to full council on February 18, reflect the difficult times we live in, not only for councils and the national economy, but for local businesses and our residents.

“The county council will continue to support Norfolk’s most vulnerable people, especially our older people and children, while giving a high priority to supporting jobs and the economy through targeted spending designed to help support local businesses. In order for us to achieve these ambitions it is vital that the council not only raises as much revenue as it can itself, but also lever in as much money as possible - whether within the UK or from Europe.

“The Sparse Areas money that we have secured is a good example of us highlighting the challenges Norfolk is facing at a national level and speaking up for the benefit of our county and residents.”

Before Christmas, a coalition of councils, known as Sparse - Sparsity Partnership for Authorities Delivering Rural Services - and part of the Rural Services Network, said councils which were “predominantly rural” would see the amount given to them by central government cut by 3.81pc compared to the average 2.05pc reduction for an urban council.

On the extra cash, David Inman, director of Sparse Rural, said the coalition was grateful for the extra resources.

But he said: “Nonetheless, the additional one-off £8.5m still means that the total grant to rural authorities has fallen about 2pc more than that to urban authorities.”

He said rural councils remained worse off and said: “With so few discretionary services left [they] face deep cuts into their basic provision while their residents already pay higher council taxes than urban dwellers.

“Having recognised the strength of our case, we are naturally disappointed that the government has not made the additional funding a permanent feature of the system.”

Suffolk County Council received just over £250,000 and Cambridgeshire County Council a little over £31,000.

• What do you think? Write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email edpletters@archant.co.uk

10 comments

  • Well its twin hat harry, if they didnt pay rubbish like him silly money there would be more to go around.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • They're banging the drum? What sort of nonsense is this? Fighting for rural services. Total twaddle. Either you put up the taxes or you make cuts. Banging drums and fighting is just empty talk. You can start by giving back your allowances you greedy bunch. You only wake up once a month to put in your expenses claims. Meanwhile the cabinet mismanages the whole county on an epic scale. Could we be in a worse position?

    Report this comment

    Electra

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

  • How strange it must be to be part of the ToryLiberal conspiracy.They take away money from local government with one hand with a display of anguished moans and crocodile tears then when an election looms they give a pittance back with the other hand and bravely smile like Lady Bountiful handing out stale bread rolls to her tenants on her birthday. I suppose they can excuse their duplicity by saying that it is all the fault of those awful socialists again . . . that's how they justify everything else they do.

    Report this comment

    sidevalve

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • So the EDP managed to get a quote out of Harry Humphrey - must be coming up to election time or something?

    Report this comment

    Fenscape

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • We're on your side, we're all in it together, and all waffle of the same ilk; who are they trying to kid. Sounds good, they're fighting our corner, hooray. Why do they need more money, when services are being stripped bare while at the same time millions can be 'found down the back of the sofa' for pre-election gimmicks. Giving them more money will merely pay for more gimmicks. There will be no increased spending on services because service desicration is ideologically motivated first and foremost.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Well its twin hat harry, if they didnt pay rubbish like him silly money there would be more to go around.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Harry Humphrey's moaning about money when he was all for Tory Wheelabrator to have £600 million of our money for a dirty stinking waste incinerator. You just can't trust the conservative party, they have lost our trust. This is just I am a nice guy working for you, but at the end of the day. The electorate will decide who works for them and I know it won't be Harry Humphrey. West Norfolk people know what you have done !

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • We're on your side, we're all in it together, and all waffle of the same ilk; who are they trying to kid. Sounds good, they're fighting our corner, hooray. Why do they need more money, when services are being stripped bare while at the same time millions can be 'found down the back of the sofa' for pre-election gimmicks. Giving them more money will merely pay for more gimmicks. There will be no increased spending on services because service desicration is ideologically motivated first and foremost.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • This coalition is handing out money whilst going deeper into the red, but only when it suits their own interests, another sob to our councils, sums being banded about to increase the feel good factor for the May county council, elections.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • It's election time and money is pouring into Tory held districts to persuade the public that that is the way their lovable councillors behave all the time. They've even defrosted Harry Humphrey for the occasion. Why anyone believes this rubbish bandied about this lot is beyond me.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Friday, February 8, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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