Millions in savings needed at County Hall – but aviation academy gets lift-off

Artists impression of Norwich Aviation Academy

Artists impression of Norwich Aviation Academy - Credit: Archant

Norfolk County Council has agreed to loan £6.25m for an aviation academy at a time when it is being forced to make millions of pounds of savings.

The authority will help make a £12m complex at Norwich International airport a reality after agreeing to lend more than half that amount to its commercial arm, Norse.

Council officers made assurances that the loan for the training centre, which could boost the region's aviation skills in a bid to create more jobs, will prove fruitful for the authority in future interest returns.

Yet the decision, made by the policy and resources committee yesterday, came during a fraught meeting over the £169m of cuts which need to be made over the next three years. The council has said it actually needs to save £111m, but want to identify more savings for 'headroom'.

There have already been warnings that almost £12m supposed to be saved this year might not be met.

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Caring for those with disabilities, wellbeing activities and decreasing the number of looked-after children have all failed to meet their targets so far this year.

While all departments will have to look at ways to save money, the council has come up with a strategy called Re-imagining Norfolk to explore how it can stay afloat, despite plummeting cash grants from Westminster.

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Committee member Mick Castle said he wanted to reassure people there were strong priorities when making savings. He cited education and support for the vulnerable as areas which need to be protected.

'We know the scale of the problem but we are prioritising things we think are important to Norfolk people,' he said.

Yet Bill Borrett, the former leader of the authority's Conservative group, told the meeting in a fiery exchange that the budget set by the rainbow alliance, was 'failing'.

The council is currently in no overall political control, but has a line-up of Labour/UKIP and Independent group/Liberal Democrats, with Labour's George Nobbs the council leader.

Most Conservative members refused to vote on the council items relating to the financial forecast.

What do you think? Write to: The Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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