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'We're helping as many people as we can.' Norfolk leader defends cost of living support programme

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Norfolk County Council's leader has defended its new cost of living support scheme, though he admits it won't be able to help everyone in need.

The authority outlined a £7.7 million package of measures intended to help residents cope with soaring prices last week.

But critics say the plan doesn't go far enough and introduces new barriers which could put people who are struggling off from seeking help.

Smart Energy Meter In Kitchen Measuring Electricity And Gas Use With Man Looking At Bills. (56508432)
Smart Energy Meter In Kitchen Measuring Electricity And Gas Use With Man Looking At Bills. (56508432)

During questions at Norfolk County Council's meeting yesterday, Labour's Chrissie Rumsby asked: "Why is the council introducing a more complicated scheme that may make it more difficult for families with children in receipt of FSM (free school meals) to benefit from?"

Concerns were also raised around the situation for children who are home educated and did receive support during the coronavirus crisis.

Council leader Andrew Proctor acknowledged the package would not "get to everybody" in need of help.

Norfolk County Council County Hall (56380340)
Norfolk County Council County Hall (56380340)

But he said the first package of funding from the programme was already being used to help families across the county, adding: "The point is to get to as many people as we possibly can."

Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn highlighted recent national press reports which reported older people in Downham were going to the town's library in order to keep warm during the day.

He said the situation was an "emergency" and urged the Conservative administration to establish a Retrofit task force for the provision of sustainable energy.

Mr Proctor said the report highlighted one aspect of the current crisis, but argued that work already being done by councils should be recognised.

He said: "It's a difficult situation for everybody. That's why we've set up the support scheme."

He also urged caution about calling for additional central government support and argued the focus should be on growing the county's economy.

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