Call for chancellor to give Norfolk extra cash to help recover after coronavirus pandemic
PUBLISHED: 12:02 09 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:29 09 November 2020
Norfolk County Council/Neil Perry/Denise Bradley
The East of England must not lose out to the North on cash to help the region recover after the coronavirus pandemic, the leader of Norfolk County Council has told chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Andrew Proctor, leader of Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council, has written to the chancellor against a backdrop of a £130m funding gap over the next four years.
In the letter, he says he knows politicians in the North have been vocal about extra money, but that the East, as a net economic contributor, must not be forgotten.
But the letter was criticised as too polite by the Labour opposition leader.
Norfolk County Council is consulting on £26m of cuts and savings for next year, with its share of the council tax mooted to rise by 4pc.
The government is only giving councils a one-year spending settlement, with longer-term solution to social care funding delayed - which the council says means longer-term planning is impossible.
Mr Proctor wrote: “We need additional, one-year support to cope with the spike in demand that followed the initial lockdown phase and which is currently moving through our system.
“I know Northern colleagues have spoken up for additional resources - but it’s important not to forget the East, which is a net economic contributor and, therefore, making a positive return on your investment.”
Mr Proctor said economic support and recovery would be key and Norfolk was keen to accelerate roads and broadband schemes.
He said those would “revitalise the economy and offer hope to the thousands who are already losing their existing jobs”.
But he added: “I am sure you realise that support for social recovery is equally vital.
“Councils have played a key role in supporting the thousands of additional people who came forward for help during the first wave in Norfolk and this new level of need is not going to subside quickly.”
But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “Surely the days of polite enquiry are passed? Norfolk has a gaping financial hole and services heading for a tipping point.
“Other council leaders stamp their feet on behalf of their residents and get heard. Norfolk asks nicely and always gets short changed.”
And Dan Roper, deputy group leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “For four years Norfolk Tories have repeatedly kicked the can down the road in tackling the council’s finances whilst waiting and hoping for more government funding.
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“However, the leadership have been very unsuccessful in making the case for Norfolk. The big financial pressures Norfolk County Council faces predate the pandemic.”
MORE: The East/North divide: Why region must compete to stay alive
What the letter says:
Thanks for all your support over the last few months, which has helped us to protect and support our communities during the first phase of the pandemic. I also welcome your economic measures, including the extension of the furlough scheme and additional help to the self-employed.
In the current circumstances, I appreciate why you are planning a one-year comprehensive spending review this year, but you know that we need far more certainty for our long-term funding especially for all aspects of adult social care. Recognising, but remaining concerned, that longer term solutions to adult social care and children’s social care funding have been delayed, we need additional, one-year support to cope with the spike in demand that followed the initial lockdown phase and which is currently moving through our system.
I know that Northern colleagues have spoken up for additional resources - but it’s important not to forget the East, which is a net economic contributor and, therefore, making a positive return on your investment.
Economic support and recovery will rightly be a key focus of your plans for the next year. I am keen to see opportunities where we can work together to support the skills agenda and accelerate our infrastructure projects – whether roads or broadband – which will revitalise the economy and offer hope to the thousands who are already losing their existing jobs.
I am sure you realise that support for social recovery is equally vital. Councils have played a key role in supporting the thousands of additional people who came forward for help during the first wave in Norfolk and this new level of need is not going to subside quickly.
Continued hardship funding will be required for those who, by no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, seen their earnings plummet or their businesses, especially small businesses, decimated. This funding should be channelled through councils as the most effective way of supporting our communities.
I would also welcome a marker about future intentions. A commitment now that next year’s comprehensive spending review will finally address the issue of sustainable long-term funding.
We continue to support our vulnerable residents such as adults with disabilities and poor mental health, but our resources are finite without having to raise taxes disproportionately and so that certainty would be appreciated by all councils.
With the right blend of investment in social care and community support, economic recovery and infrastructure, Norfolk can help you to build back better and ensure there is a positive legacy from this traumatic pandemic.
I would be very happy to speak to you about more detailed examples of where, with appropriate support from Government, we can work together and deliver on our shared objectives of economic and social recovery.
Cllr Andrew Proctor
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