Councillors reject Norfolk County farms sell-off plan

Moves to allow the sell-off of a slice of Norfolk's county farm estate to fund an overhaul of the system of looking after children in care were heavily defeated yesterday.

Opposition Lib Dem county councillors had hoped to get support for a plan which would have allowed for a part of the 16,000-acre county farms estate to be sold off to help raise cash to build eight new specialist facilities for children in care instead of sending them to costly placements outside of Norfolk.

Lib Dem leader Paul Morse said the sell-off idea could help restructure a key part of children's service at a time of swingeing cuts and the party proposed the measure should be adopted on February 14

'It's easy to play the blame game for another Valentine's Day massacre,' Mr Morse said. 'What's harder is finding some solutions. If we do not sell-off some of the family silver now, when do we? Services are being reduced and some like sensory support and the youth service are being wiped out completely.'

Both Conservatives and Labour spoke out against the plan, while a Green amendment to limit any sell-off to 1,000 acres with funds being made available to any services which need support, was also defeated.

Ian Mackie, cabinet member for finance, dismissed the plan as a 'smash and grab' raid on a vital council asset.

'This is a motion which could de-stabilise the growth, innovation and planning that our tenants are undertaking, causes alarm and uncertainty to families and ultimately unlock the floodgates for whole scale sale,' Mr Mackie said. 'We receive an annual income of over �1.2m each year from this valuable source of sustainable income. Only the Lib Dems would urge the cooking of the goose that lays the golden eggs.'

Most Read

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said there had been no out of county placements in the last eight weeks, and officers were working hard to develop alternatives, but the welfare of the child in question was the primary consideration.

'Certainly the decisions we take to place children out of the country are done with children's interests at heart and for their well-being first and foremost.'