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West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish defends Ukraine war response after criticism from Stuart Dark

West Norfolk Council’s leader is “unclear why there is concern” about the authority’s ongoing response to the Ukraine war after criticism from his Tory counterpart.

The borough’s Conservative Group leader, Cllr Stuart Dark, raised frustrations at the way Cllr Terry Parish is handling this response during a full council meeting last month.

He said he had received information that the leader had not yet visited the staff members working on providing services to assist those who have arrived in West Norfolk since the start of Russia’s invasion – something Cllr Parish denied during the meeting.

Cllr Stuart Dark. Picture: West Norfolk Council
Cllr Stuart Dark. Picture: West Norfolk Council

Now, Cllr Dark has told the Lynn News that he feels the current course of action is “simply not good enough”.

“West Norfolk residents, officials and councillors right across the political spectrum acted quickly and with compassion to provide the safest and most welcoming possible haven to those fleeing here from an awful war in 2022,” he said.

“Since May 2023, the new leader has let this response slip, not formally meeting with the staff, charity and volunteers involved for several months, letting the Service Level Agreement (SLA) funding finish, leading to uncertainty and making uniformed dismissive responses to council that imply in his view the support centre is now not busy and that things are now much better for those that need its support, contrary to the readily obtainable facts if he’d engaged, both sad and concerning.

West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish. Picture: West Norfolk Council
West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish. Picture: West Norfolk Council

“I’m sure many in our community will feel likewise on reading this article and wonder what he has been up to in the last seven months that prevented him checking for himself this essential help to those in dire need was working effectively.”

The borough council has hosted numerous events to support Ukrainian refugees since the war started nearly two years ago.

These have included celebrations of the country’s independence day, with this year’s event being held in the Tuesday Market Place.

The authority’s website also says it continues to offer support with the likes of housing, money, childcare and schools, working, health services, and documents.

Now, Cllr Parish has said: “I am unclear to why there is concern about this matter. The organisation which co-ordinates support for Ukrainian refugees, the Hanseatic Union, had a service level agreement for funding which is due to expire.

“However, further monies, not from council revenue, has been found to extend support until March 31. Agreement on this awaits any 'call in' from councillors during the next week.

“I do not anticipate any objections. Officers are now looking at the situation from April 2024 and external funding opportunities which may be available now or will emerge.

“The Hanseatic Union, or members of it, are also supporting individuals and groups from other nationalities and that will be taken into account.

“It is my administration's intention to ensure West Norfolk is not further financially challenged and that any emerging situation is managed in the best interests of all residents.

“We already have sufficient pressure on resources and a recent statement from government about future funding to councils is not at all helpful.

“In addition, the request for Internal Drainage Board funding, which utilises a large proportion of Council Tax, featured in your last edition and supported by both MPs, has just been refused. This matter will be pursued further.”

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