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'Upbeat' Budget needs more detail on council funding, says Norfolk leader

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The leader of Norfolk County Council says more detail is needed on a planned multi-billion pound funding package for local government announced in today's Budget.

Andrew Proctor is one of several political figures here who have so far given their reaction to the statement, which has been seen as "upbeat" in some quarters and "shocking" in others.

Among the measures announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was a £4.8 billion grant to local government over three years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his 2021 Budget. Picture: PA (52615463)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his 2021 Budget. Picture: PA (52615463)

Mr Proctor, who has repeatedly called for long-term certainty in council financing, argued there was "much to welcome" in Mr Sunak's announcements.

He said: “It was good to see the Chancellor in upbeat mood and delivering a budget that is focussed on growing a stronger economy, which is a key aim of the county council.

“I’m pleased by the funding announced for housing, schools, special educational needs, transport, broadband and museums and libraries and I look forward to finding out how Norfolk can benefit.”

Andrew Proctor. (44831638)
Andrew Proctor. (44831638)

But he added: “I was hoping for clearer detail on how the additional £4.8 billion of funding for local government over the next three years will apply to Norfolk but the devil will be in that detail.

“I need to understand whether this puts us on a sounder footing, without being pushed into the continued cycle of large Council Tax rises.

“We will now explore the fine print of the Chancellor’s announcement and report back to our cabinet meeting on 8th November, to inform our own budget and Council Tax proposals.”

One observer who was less impressed was Liberal Democrat county councillor Rob Colwell.

Rob Colwell
Rob Colwell

He said his party had urged Mr Sunak to pledge the £15 billion that the Government's own catch-up tsar, who resigned in June, had argued was necessary for education to recover from the pandemic.

He went on: “Instead they're offering just £1 per school day in three years of catch up funding. It is shocking that the Tories will not properly support our children’s futures in West Norfolk.

“In the budget today the Chancellor gave more money to his banker mates than he did to our children and schools in catch-up funding.

Steve Morphew. (37786906)
Steve Morphew. (37786906)

“They might say they are the party of public services but really they are the same old Tories.”

The Labour group leader at County Hall, Steve Morphew, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was also concerned about the detail of Mr Sunak's plans.

He said: “More than anything, it’s what missing. I didn’t see anything from the chancellor that he was looking at the world through the lens of people in Norfolk.

James Wild MP.. (44262721)
James Wild MP.. (44262721)

“There was no mention of council tax or cost of living increases that will affect real people.”

Mr Morphew argued much of the spending would go towards issues which had been created by the government, with universal credit changes not making up for last month’s cut or funding for children’s centres replacing the slashed Sure Start centres.

He added that the lack of climate change measures was “staggering”, particularly while the UK is hosting a climate change summit, and no mention of a Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) rebuild was “incredible”.

But North West Norfolk MP James Wild insisted the Chancellor's measures would help families and businesses alike, as well as increasing spending on services.

He said: “Increases in the National Living Wage, making Universal credit more generous, funding for the new hospitals programme which I’m campaigning for QEH to be part of, and cuts in business rate are particularly welcome.

“By investing in better broadband, improved roads and rail links, innovation, and skills, this is a plan to level up and improve opportunity here and across the country.”

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