VIDEO: Council leaders defend �2.5m Norwich northern bypass ‘war chest’ decision

A decision to create a �2.5m 'war chest' for the Norwich northern bypass has been defended by council leaders, amid criticism the cash could have been spent to help vulnerable children or elderly people.

The government is funding �86.5m of the �141.5m cost of the Northern Distributor Road, which will stretch for 19.5km from Postwick on the A47 to the A1067 Fakenham Road.

But the rest of the cash will have to be found by the county council and the Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed this month to create a �2.5m reserve fund to mitigate future borrowing costs.

That money is available because of a budget underspend, but members of the Green Party have questioned whether alternative ways to spend the cash had been considered.

Stephen Little, Green councillor for Town Close wardin Norwich, said at a cabinet scrutiny meeting yesterday: 'I think anyone truly aware of the intense pressures in children's services and adult social care would not have made this decision.'

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He said council cuts, through the Big Conversation process, meant children were facing longer to be assigned social workers, while people were paying out of their own pocket for day care.

Ian Mackie, deputy council leader, defended the NDR 'war chest' decision. He said the council had made more than �5m available to help looked after children and had set up a preventative fund to help support changes in care for the elderly.

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He added the council was committed to the NDR as a way to stimulate growth and jobs.

He said: 'The NDR has been on the cards for many years and we have been awarded a grant for it. All the major parties support it and it will be good for growth and good for jobs.'

He said that, by setting aside �2.5m for the NDR it would reduce what the council would have to pay back in what it borrows to fund the road.

Mr Mackie added that he was 'quite comfortable' in the way the council was monitoring and delivering care services.

Richard Bearman, leader of the Green group at County Hall, put forward a proposal at the cabinet scrutiny meeting that the matter be referred back to cabinet to be reconsidered. However, he did not find a seconder for his motion, so it foundered.

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