Threat of action after Norfolk County Council handed £700,000 to Age UK Norfolk for its pension fund

Herondale short stay residential care home and day centre in Acle. Picture: James Bass

Herondale short stay residential care home and day centre in Acle. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Answers are being demanded over a behind-closed-doors decision to help a Norfolk charity using £700,000 of taxpayers money.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of the Conservative group at Norfolk County Council.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of the Conservative group at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Archant

The Conservative group on Norfolk County Council has written to the authority's managing director for an explanation of why the council gave Age UK Norfolk the money to help with its pension deficit.

The charity was helped by the Labour/Liberal Democrat cabinet in October last year to put the money into the Norfolk Pension Fund.

But the Conservatives, whose leader Tom FitzPatrick lambasted the nature of the decision as 'scandalous', wants a further explanation. The letter to managing director Dr Wendy Thomson threatens to refer the matter to the district auditor if satisfactory answers are not received.

Mr FitzPatrick said: 'There are serious questions that need answers urgently over this matter. £700,000 is a huge sum of money, particularly when the council's service committees are reporting a combined overspend of nearly £9m.


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'This money could have purchased thousands of hours of home care; funded foster placements for looked after children, supported many, many other charities in providing valuable services but instead is being used to make up a pension deficit.'

The questions asked include:

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? When the money was actually paid

? Who instructed the finance department to make the payment

? Whether it was to Age UK Norfolk or to the Norfolk Pension Fund and whether the information provided to councillors was accurate.

The council previously said the award was made after councillors were told a decision to decommission Herondale care service, run in Acle by Age UK Norfolk, would have a 'major financial impact' on the charity.

Coupled with a pension deficit which put its future in question, cabinet agreed to make a one-off investment. The council said the decision was taken 'below the line', with the public and press excluded, because the report contained exempt information.

? What do you think of the decision? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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