Calls to back fairer funding for West Norfolk
West Norfolk is not receiving enough national investment in local public services due to “false perceptions” that the county is a rich area.
That’s according to a new report by Norfolk County Council, which is calling on MPs to back fairer funding for rural areas to tackle social exclusion.
The report says that the districts of West Norfolk, Breckland and North Norfolk are amongst the worst 10 per cent nationally for social mobility.
County council leader Andrew Proctor said: “The county council works with partners to improve education, support economic development and provide the right infrastructure – but significant challenges remain in ensuring that everyone benefits from this work.
“I want to ensure that people can make the best of their lives, wherever they live in the county.
“That’s why we’re calling for the Government’s funding review to recognise the true costs of us providing services in rural areas and help us step up our work to improve social mobility.”
The report to MPs says: “Unfortunately, the false perception of Norfolk as a relatively rich area has left it excluded from the levels of investment in public services that its people require and have a right to expect.
“We urge the all-party parliamentary group to challenge the perception that social mobility is exclusively an urban issue and take up the cause of places such as Norfolk, where rural deprivation, isolation and declining amenities risk excluding its people from enjoying the benefits of the industrial growth, jobs and housing, to which government policy is committed.”
It adds that people in Norfolk are the least socially mobile within the eastern region – meaning they are less likely to move to a different social class – with more than 120,000 people in the county living in areas which are among the most deprived 20 per cent in England.
This includes parts of Lynn and pockets of deprivation in rural areas, coastal villages and market towns.
Barriers to social mobility in Norfolk identified in the report include economical reliance on tourism and agriculture, average earnings being “significantly below” national and regional levels, access to services, lack of well-established culture of training at all stages of employment, access to affordable childcare for low income families, and persistent issues of educational attainment for children and young people.
The report concluded: “Social mobility is a complex, systemic problem and rural counties suffer from similar challenges, often out of the spotlight of national media.
“If we truly want to address the challenges we need to work together at all levels of government, private and third sectors to bring about change. Fair funding is fundamental to achieving this.”
Since 2010/11, the county council says its government grant has reduced by £189 million and the authority has made savings of £334 million and had to absorb additional costs of £319 million.