Review of the Year: First in a two part look at the highs and lows of 2013

Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bra

Ambulances parked up outside A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

From the tent set up outside a Norfolk hospital to news the Dambusters are coming to Norfolk with the future of RAF Marham secure – it has been a year of highs and lows in the region. In the first of a two-part look at 2013 Annabelle Dickson reflects on a turbulent year for education, a toll plan defeated and the year the rainbow alliance was formed

Health services under pressure

On Easter Monday an inflatable tent was pitched outside the Accident and Emergency services department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital – it was symptomatic of a tough year for NHS services in the region.

The delays in handing over patients from ambulances to A&E staff, which almost saw the make-shift ward have to be used, happened in a year the East of England Ambulance Service Trust came under fire from watchdogs, missed targets and there were a number of high-profile resignations.

There were tragic headlines showing the failings of the ambulance service, including the story of three-month-old Bella Louise Hellings who died in March after her mother tried to resuscitate her as she waited for almost 30 minutes for paramedics to respond to a 999 call.

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Later this year mental health workers launched a fight to save local services as the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust starts the process of cutting beds.

The mental health trust came under fire from Norfolk's coroner, who criticised it for failing a man who jumped to his death from the Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich in May.

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And in October the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn was put into 'special measures'.

Torrid year for Norfolk's children

Norfolk County Council's children's services spent the year under attack and said good-bye to a number of senior staff who departed.

In February, Ofsted inspectors documented a string of concerns about the way Norfolk looked after vulnerable children and then later swooped on its schools for an unprecedented inspection blitz, criticising the council for the support it gave. In October it emerged that almost 1,000 potentially vulnerable children went unassessed.

Norfolk County Council children's services director, Lisa Christensen, resigned in June and Sheila Lock was brought in as the interim director of the department.

Roads and rail move a step forward

It was the year of the spectacular U-turn on plans for a toll road on the A14 in Cambridgeshire, following a sucessful campaign by businesses, politicians and the EDP, which made the case against charging for the road.

But it was not the only arterial route occupying decision makers. Following a visit from transport minister Stephen Hammond, the A 47, spanning Norfolk from Great Yarmouth into the Midlands was put on a list of seven which will be the subject of a feasibility study – moving it a step closer to an upgrade.

The controversial Northen Distributor Road moved a significant step closer after the government said it would be fast-tracked through the planning process, after it was designated as a scheme of national significance.

Chancellor George Osborne arrived in Norwich in November to announce that a taskforce would be set up to work out what needs to be done to get trains to travel from Norwich to London in 90 minutes. The group – which includes MPs, DfT, Network Rail and the Lep – met for the first time just before parliament broke up for Christmas.

All change at County Hall

The political landscape of Norfolk was completely reshaped in May after the UK Independence Party's election success meant no party had overall control of County Hall. High-profile Tory councillors lost their seats, meaning no party had overall control and eventually a Rainbow Alliance was formed at County Hall.

The new executive decided not to pull the plug on the controversial incinerator project, fearing a huge compensation bill, after the government pulled £169m of funding.

And the council started to weigh up where the axe will fall as it addresses a £189m funding gap.

Last month the leaders of Norfolk and Suffolk county councils met on the boundary of the two counties to sign a partnership agreement committing the authorities to working together.

The Dambusters are coming

Defence secretary Phillip Hammond flew into RAF Marham in March to deliver the news that the newest stealth aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter, will be based in Norfolk.

It was the latest victory for RAF Marham, which was threatened with closure under the government's defence review, only to win a reprieve in July 2011.

In July 2013 there was more good news for the base when it emerged that the world-famous 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – will re-form in Norfolk to take to the cockpit of the next generation of fast jets.


Former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Mike Souter was jailed for 22 years in October for a string of serious sexual offences against boys across almost two decades.

A jury at Norwich Crown Court found Souter guilty of 19 counts of historic child sex abuse against seven different boys following a trial lasting more than five weeks.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Herbie Hide admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs and was sentenced to 22 months.

Last month female serial killer Joanna Dennehy pleaded guilty to murdering three men before dumping their bodies in ditches across the Fens and north Cambridgeshire.

She gave no clue as to the reason why.

In September it was announced that Blundeston Prison near Lowestoft was to close under government plans to help slash millions of pounds from the overall prison budget.

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