A multi-million pound package has been unveiled to help Norfolk people through the cost of living crisis, but critics have said it does not go far enough.

Norfolk County Council has pledged to use £6.7m of government cash - and a further £1.2m County Hall is putting in - to support the most vulnerable this winter.

The money includes:

  • £3.6m for cost-of-living vouchers to families of children who are eligible for free school meals;
  • £2.7m for the Norfolk Assistance Scheme, which provides emergency financial help and essential household goods to people in need;
  • Nearly £1m for district councils to provide community support targeting those most in need;
  • £400,000 for voluntary and community groups, via the Norfolk Community Foundation, to create 'community hot spots' to help vulnerable people;
  • £220,000 for voluntary and community organisations which can provide warm spaces for people this winter;
  • Nearly £85,000 for 'grab and go' bags,. including hot water bottles, in libraries.

Most of the money for the schemes is coming from the latest round of the government's Household Support Fund, but the council has bolstered it with £1.2m more.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council leader Andrew ProctorNorfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Andrew Proctor, leader of Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council, said: “We know some of our residents face financial challenges this winter with the massive increase in the cost-of-living, particularly rising energy costs and food prices.

Eastern Daily Press: Cost of living concerns have left people worrying about how they will heat their homes this winterCost of living concerns have left people worrying about how they will heat their homes this winter (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

"Building on the strong partnerships established across Norfolk, we are working alongside the district councils, the voluntary sector, and schools to make sure we can reach those who need this support the most.

"It will also provide some much-needed help over the Christmas period.

"This extended package of investment will help those most in need to access additional support over the winter months, including help with energy and water costs."

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Martineau Lane in NorwichNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Martineau Lane in Norwich

Mr Proctor said the money came on top of investment already made, with £14.3m of funding helping 128,000 Norfolk households.

That includes the Nourishing Norfolk scheme, through which the council has worked with Norfolk Community Foundation to create 15 food hubs, supporting 12,000 people.

The foundation is being given £220,000 to provide grants of up to £2,000 so community hot-spots can be created to help people and keep them warm this winter.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of the Norfolk Community Foundation, welcomed the funding.

She said: "It will help us to build a network of community hotspots providing warm places across the county for people to come together.

"In addition, it enables us to help struggling households manage their increasing utilities costs.

"Last winter this programme saw nearly 20,000 households supported on food bills at what was a very challenging time."

Vicky Aitken, acting chief executive of Age UK Norfolk, said: "Following the success of the current Household Support Fund, Age UK will be supporting this next release of funding focussed on utility payment support.

"We have recognised that minimum wage and zero-hour workers may have felt they were not entitled to support in previous rounds, therefore we would especially encourage those aged 50 plus with low incomes to reach out to the Norfolk Assistance Scheme."

Anglian Water is also working with the council, Age UK and Norfolk Community Foundation to highlight the support it can offer to people struggling to pay their bills.

Pete Holland, Anglian Water’s director of customer and wholesale services, said: "Whatever the circumstances, our message to customers is simple: if you’re struggling, please get in touch. The sooner we talk, the sooner we can help.”

With Norfolk having a population of around 930,000, the £7.9m works out at about £8.40 per head.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Denise Bradley)

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at the county council, said: "As inflation soars and demand increases this really doesn't feel anything like enough.

"On top of that there has been no consultation with councillors or communities on the best way to spend this money.

"The Conservative administration does not have a good record, having scrapped school holiday vouchers and cobbled together an alternative in the face of public criticism."

People can see what support they are eligible for and apply for help online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/nas