What does Norfolk want from the autumn budget and spending review?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to

Chancellor Rishi Sunak's autumn budget and spending review is due on October 27. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Council leaders in Norfolk are hoping chancellor Rishi Sunak will ease their battles to balance the books when he unveils the autumn budget.

And supporters of the campaign to get more of the A47 dualled are also hoping Mr Sunak will commit money to the scheme.

The chancellor will deliver the budget and comprehensive spending review to the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 27), after record levels of government borrowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been predictions that Mr Sunak could announce tax cuts for banks, an end to the public sector pay freeze and some measures around climate change.

But council leaders in Norfolk are hoping Mr Sunak will recognise the efforts local councils have made during the coronavirus pandemic - and announce longer-term financial packages to help them plan their budgets.

Norfolk County Council has put the publication of its own budget proposals on hold, in the hope announcements in the comprehensive spending review will provide more long-term certainty for local authorities.

Leaders at the Conservative-controlled council had previously said they need to find just over £39m of savings next year - or £47.8m if they were to make the unlikely decision to freeze council tax.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: NCC

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said he hoped the chancellor would outline sustainable funding packages for councils, rather than one-off grants.

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He said: "We need that long term funding to get the certainty over what we are doing.

"What should be taken into account is how well local government has helped during the pandemic.

"We have had government grants to assist people, but those are coming to an end and yet, we will be there helping to drive the economic recovery.

"We need sustainable funding for the everyday things we do, but also for the Covid recovery and renewal.

"We need to be given the freedom to do the things we know local government does well."

The government previously confirmed an increase in national insurance contributions to help pay for social care.

But Mr Proctor fears much of that money will go straight to the NHS, rather than to assist councils which have responsibility for social care.

Norfolk County Council tax bill. Picture: Denise Bradley

Council leader Andrew Proctor is reluctant to keep raising council tax in Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

And he said the government needed to move away from a belief that such issues could be resolved by local authorities "foisting council tax increases" on their communities.

"That does not sit will with me," said Mr Proctor.

Mr Proctor says he remained hopeful that the council's Just Dual It campaign over the A47 would lead to more money being committed to improve the road.

While £300m was announced for the road in 2014, work on those schemes has yet to start.

The council is particularly keen to get a commitment for money to dual the Acle Straight, Tilney to East Winch and Wisbech to Peterborough.

Could Boris Johnson's 'Project Speed' accellerate the dualling of the A47? Pic: Highways England.

Council leaders are hoping the chancellor will commit to money for the A47. - Credit: Highways England

Mr Proctor said: "There have been years of inaction, as opposed to action.

"It comes back to the devolution agenda. If the government is serious about that, then they have got to move away from the centralised spending, where the government gives you a bit, but you are constantly having to ask for the rest."

Steve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

But Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, was not optimistic the review would bring good news for Norfolk.

He said: "‘Less well off families will be squeezed by council tax hikes and increases in both national insurance and the adult social care precept, both to prop up a social care market terminally broken even if it lasts through the winter.

"Nothing we hear suggests the comprehensive spending review will do other than make life harder.

"The lack of planning time councils have as we enter a winter of multiple self inflicted crisis is uncaring, incompetent and probably both.

"Right now we need more from those with most, less of a squeeze on those less well off and a proper plan to use cash wisely.

"The comprehensive spending review is supposed to be long term, but I doubt this will remain intact through the winter."

Earlier this month, Norwich City Council leaders said they were anticipating a considerable gap in City Hall's budget, with £10.6m of savings needed over the next four years.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor. - Credit: Jeff Taylor

Alan Waters, leader of the Labour-run council, previously described the way local authorities are funded as akin to a “pack of cards about to collapse”.