Cross-party Norfolk MPs call for meeting with chancellor amid fears over future of county council's finances
PUBLISHED: 12:43 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:58 15 February 2019
A cross-party group of MPs have called for a meeting with the chancellor - because they fear Norfolk County Council will have to axe more key services without a better government deal.
Norfolk County Council this week agreed its budget for next year, which includes a 2.99pc council tax increase.
But the authority still needs to plug a £70m funding gap by 2022.
Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader at County Hall, said local government has “borne the brunt” of cuts by central government and warned difficult decisions lie ahead.
He said one-off funding and a business rates pilot to allow more money raised in Norfolk to stay in the county were welcome.
But he said a long-term funding solution was needed, especially given Norfolk’s reliance on the disappearing revenue support grant it gets from Westminster.
He had written to MPs warning the shortfall presented a “significant risk” and that “statements about the end of austerity need to be backed up by significant, permanent funding”.
In response, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have called on chancellor Philip Hammond to meet them to discuss “serious concerns”.
The letter, drawn up by Lib Dem Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) has been signed by Labour’s Clive Lewis (Norwich South) and Conservatives Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) and Sir Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk).
They say: “We are MPs from different political parties, but we agree that it is imperative that there is sustainable funding from Norfolk County Council to ensure that vital services for local people are maintained - and indeed enhanced.
“We would like to meet with you or another treasury minister in order to discuss the very serious situation facing Norfolk.”
Mr Lamb said: “It has become very clear just how serious the financial situation in Norfolk is. There is a real risk that, if a solution to this problem isn’t found quickly, the county council will struggle to maintain statutory levels of service delivery.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, not a signatory to Mr Lamb’s letter, raised eyebrows last year when she appeared on BBC’s Newsnight and said the government was “not making cuts to local authorities”, but giving them more revenue raising powers.