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County council plea for funding to plug £20m coronavirus budget hole

PUBLISHED: 22:22 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 22:22 10 June 2020

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor during the council's first remote cabinet meeting. Photo: Dan Grimmer

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor during the council's first remote cabinet meeting. Photo: Dan Grimmer

Archant

The leader of Norfolk county council wants to “ramp up” the authority’s campaign for central government funding in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk Counnty Council. Pic: ArchantSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk Counnty Council. Pic: Archant

Andrew Proctor, leader of the Conservative run authority, said the “time has now come” to make a specific case for Norfolk.

It comes after the authority announced it was facing a £20m shortfall in Covid-19 costs, despite a £43m cash injection from the government, due to increased costs, lost income and inability to meet savings targets.

But the council leader’s statement was criticised by the Labour and Liberal Democrat group leaders, who called for Mr Proctor to show “leadership”.

READ MORE: Council leader criticised for ‘virtual silence’ over lockdown rule breaking

Steffan Aquarone is the Liberal Democrats' prospective parliamentary candidate for Mid Norfolk. Picture: Alex BroadwaySteffan Aquarone is the Liberal Democrats' prospective parliamentary candidate for Mid Norfolk. Picture: Alex Broadway

Speaking during a meeting of the county council’s cabinet, held on Monday, June 8, Mr Proctor said: “The time has now come where we can say to the government we have much more clarity about what we need.

“Just saying ‘give us more’ doesn’t work unless we have the data behind it and now we do.”

And the cabinet member for finance, Andrew Jamieson, added: “From a financial perspective this current crisis and the resulting £20m shortfall puts us at around average levels of shortfall.

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“In Norfolk, we’ve seen additional cost pressures of around £1m since the last cabinet meeting. Clearly the pandemic has had a major impact.”

READ MORE: ‘Not what I want for Norfolk’s children’ - council admit SEND weaknesses

Labour group leader Steve Morphew said: “My message to Andrew Proctor is that he wanted to be executive leader of the county, now get out there and lead.

“We’re used to pleas being fobbed off by the government so he needs to up his game as well as engagement. His leadership and that of his cabinet during this emergency has been almost invisible when we really need champions for our county.”

And Liberal Democrat group leader Steffan Aquarone added: “It appears the Conservative leadership has no plan, and is just waiting for government help.

“It is dangerous to just wait for the government to step in with more money.”

Mr Proctor told the meeting the council was supporting the County Councils’ Network and the Local Government Association but added “we can ramp up our engagement with ministers to make a specific case for Norfolk, based on this evidence and data”.

In response to Mr Morphew’s claim he had been silent, Mr Proctor said he had “spoken regularly throughout” the crisis.

READ MORE: ‘Disappointed’ - council slammed for ‘backslapping’ over coronavirus response


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