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'Windfall' warning in row over council's energy deal with firm linked to Russia

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An energy firm with continuing links to Russia would benefit from a "windfall" if its current contracts were torn up, Norfolk county councillors have been warned.

Several authorities, including the county council, West Norfolk and Breckland, have faced questions over their arrangements for the supply of gas and electricity by TotalEnergies.

The French company is scaling back its Russian operations in response to the war in Ukraine, but has so far stopped short of pulling out of the country altogether.

Terrain crack - Ukraine/Russia. (55516846)
Terrain crack - Ukraine/Russia. (55516846)

And the matter was raised as county councillors met yesterday for the first time since the conflict began.

Liberal Democrat Saul Penfold asked whether the council's Conservative administration was "ashamed" over its failure to end the deal, on which it spent around £7.4 million in the last calendar year, so far.

But finance portfolio holder, and North Coast councillor, Andrew Jamieson said such action would dramatically increase its costs.

Andrew Jamieson.
Andrew Jamieson.

He went on: "It would lead to a windfall for Total, which you're presumably not trying to achieve.

"It's one of those many things which, if you think about for five seconds it sounds appalling. If you start to think about it intelligently, the result is slightly different."

But Mr Penfold claimed the action would be "a price worth paying in the short term" for a longer term benefit.

Earlier in the meeting, the council's chairman, Penny Carpenter, spoke of her "disbelief and outrage" at the Russian invasion of Ukraine and praised the response of the county's communities to the crisis.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich (55754593)
Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich (55754593)

She said: "Norfolk people, our people, our communities and organisations, are ready to welcome, to help, to provide accommodation, to help to recuperate, recover and settle all those who are affected by this war.

"I could not be prouder of our residents and staff who have and will continue to go above and beyond to assist those who are in crisis."

A Ukrainian flag was also on show in the council chamber during the meeting.

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