Norfolk plea on fair deal funding

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Ministers are being urged to end a funding deal which has seen Norfolk lose out by more than £45m in the past two years.


Ministers are being urged to end a funding deal which has seen Norfolk lose out by more than £45m in the past two years.

A cross-party delegation of county councillors is heading to Westminster today to urge the county's MPs to back the fair funding fight and bring an end to the government's so-called damping mechanism which has restricted increases in government grant for the county.

In a joint letter to local government minister John Healey, group leaders at the county council are urging the government to end the current funding formula.

Ironically, the damping system was brought in after the realisation that changes, which would have placed Norfolk among the funding winners, would have a negative impact, particularly in urban areas.

The letter called for an indication as to when the damping arrangements would end and a clear explanation of the "frankly mystifying" funding process.

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"Norfolk has had to cut services, which are needed, because they are not being funded by the government in accordance with that need," the letter said. "We do wonder what we should tell our council tax payers about where accountability for their services rests - when the government fails to fund its own assessment of our need.

"We in Norfolk have been patient, but we submit that it is now time for the redistributive effect of the new formula to impact on the actual financial settlements for authorities and for Norfolk to receive the funding evidenced by the government's assessment of our need."

The move comes as local authorities have been warned not to increase council tax bills by more than 5pc next year, and with the prospect of tight funding settlements outlined in last week's comprehensive spending review.

In Norfolk, where the Tory-run administration has been basing its budgets on a 3pc rise, officials fear a funding shortfall of more than £20m and the prospect of more service cuts.

District councils are also becoming concerned about how they will pay for the new national concessionary bus fares scheme, which is due to be introduced next year.

Daniel Cox, council leader, said: "The government should stop being unfair to Norfolk and give us the money we need," he said. "We can understand that there may be an initial need to support other authorities but after two years they should have reworked their budgets. That's more than sufficient time to make the changes to their finances."

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