Council leader criticised for ‘virtual silence’ over lockdown rule breaking

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor during the council's first remote cabinet meeting. Phot

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor during the council's first remote cabinet meeting. Photo: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

The leader of Norfolk’s county council has been criticised for being “virtually silent” over “growing cynicism” about senior government figures flouting the lockdown rules.

Andrew Proctor, leader of the Conservative-run authority, has been urged to “provide leadership to the Norfolk community” in the wake of outrage over the prime minister’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings driving to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

During a remote county council cabinet meeting held on Monday, June 8, Labour group leader Steve Morphew asked Mr Proctor how he planned to deliver the message.

“The confusing messages and damaging behaviour of senior government figures has led to growing cynicism and a breakdown in the community spirit that brought so many heroic achievements during the hardship of the lockdown,” he said.

“Despite this the leader of the council has been virtually silent. A key responsibility of the leader is to provide leadership to the Norfolk community.

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“Will he now exercise that responsibility and give residents in my division and across Norfolk clear messages we can unite behind, and champion standards we can respect and trust?”

And he added: “Protect ourselves and protect Norfolk is a good headline but what does it actually mean?”

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Mr Proctor said he had “spoken regularly throughout the pandemic about the county council’s leading role in supporting Norfolk to get through Covid-19, support our communities and now working to restart the economy”.

He added: “The report to cabinet on May 11 showed the exceptional work done by all - a team response and a team effort.”

Mr Proctor said he and deputy leader Graham Plant met daily with the head of paid service and executive director of strategy and governance, and the council’s communications team “to shape and approve messaging to ensure residents of Norfolk have up-to date, accessible information from trusted and accurate sources”.

He added: “I have driven the central and consistent message of protect ourselves, protect Norfolk, with MPs and district councils.”

“The director of public health [Dr Louise Smith] has been on the radio a number of times to get that message across.

“I think from that point of view we’ve been very, very clear in our messaging.”

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