MP makes Commons attack on 'wasteful' council

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk MP has accused a district council of "wasting vast quantities of taxpayers' money" during the pandemic and being "devoid of ideas".

Duncan Baker, the Conservative MP for North Norfolk, slammed the Liberal Democrat administration at North Norfolk District Council, which has refuted the claims.

Mr Baker, who resigned from NNDC this month after serving since 2017, made the comments during a debate on local government finance on Wednesday, February 10.

He said: "A well-run council should behave like a well-run business – its residents are its shareholders, and councillors are just as accountable by its decisions."

The North Norfolk District Council offices at Cromer. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The North Norfolk District Council offices at Cromer. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

Mr Baker said under Conservative control NNDC had built up reserves to "weather the most difficult of challenges" and put up council tax "just once in seven years"

But he said when the Lib Dems took control it was "a matter of months before they increased taxes".

He said: "Sadly, my constituents have watched as the Liberal Democrat administration has wasted vast quantities of taxpayers’ money on a redundancy and reorganisation programme throughout the pandemic, not to mention cancelling Conservative-initiated projects during their tenure which, as we emerge from the pandemic, would have contributed greatly to the district—over half a million pounds of local people’s money wasted, while actually proposing very little themselves."

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Following the debate, Mr Baker said he just wanted "councils to think very carefully about those who are struggling financially during the pandemic, for whom council tax rises pose a real challenge."

He said: "The Liberal Democrats have questions to answer about this enormous failure to govern properly, responsibly, and accountably.”

Eric Seward, NNDC deputy leader, said: “Unfortunately our local MP has got his facts completely wrong. The management review process, which independent studies showed was needed, has not cost the council tax-payers extra money and is cost-neutral.

 “The incoming Liberal Democrat administration in May 2019 had to stop a number of Conservative initiatives which were no longer financially viable.

"We were left with a huge bill for a sports hub at Cromer Tennis Club where the council had not secured the land necessary for the building work to start and vital funding from the Lawn Tennis Association had fallen through.

“In the case of the Egmere Enterprise Zone, the council had spent thousands of pounds on a project which after a number of years had not attracted any significant business interest.

 “To have carried on with these kinds of projects would have wasted even more council tax-payers’ money.”