October Update from County Hall

31 Oct 2023
Brian Watkins - Eaton

Leader of the Lib Dems on Norfolk County Council, Cllr Brian Watkins (pictured), gives a brief run-down on the latest developments from County Hall.

More Money in Cost of Living support from Westminster

Norfolk County Council has been awarded £13.8m to assist households over the winter period.

Emergency financial help, food support, help with utility bills, and free cost-of-living vouchers are on offer to the worst-off households, details of which can be accessed here. All 47 of Norfolk's libraries will also be offering free winter support items until the end of March 2024.

The Lib Dems welcome the extra funding to support households this winter, for many who have to make difficult decisions between heating their homes and eating a nutritious meal this will come as a welcome respite. However, grants such as this do not solve the underlying problems that many residents face and are yet another example of this band-aid style of politics, a short-term remedy to an issue than requires long term treatment.

For many, especially those in the renting market, who are disproportionately effected by the cost of living crisis, there will still be much concern. The government is not doing enough to alleviate the issues, even recently scrapping minimum energy efficiency requirements which would have ensured that residents have a well insulated and energy efficient living space. 

Government Hiccup Leads to Lower Norfolk Schools Budget

An error by the Department of Education has meant that the 2.7% funding increase expected will now instead only be 1.9%.

Norfolk County Council has estimated this will cost the children of our county £5.6m in lost funding, with current levels already insufficient for a great many. Schools have warned they may have to cut staff and cancel trips to get back into the black and adjust their projections.

Schools are suffering after 8 years of unmitigated Conservative attack on their budgets, with many already feeling they've been forced to offer a bare-bones service as of late, this will be yet another blow and leaves many wondering if indeed there's any fat left to trim. 

The Department of Education has apologised but will not be issuing a reimbursal or any compensatory measure. There has been widespread cross-party discontent and condemnation and Lib Dems are happy to join in this.

The Transport for Norwich Fiasco

The cabinet member for Transport, Great Yarmouth Conservative Graham Plant, abolished the Transport for Norwich committee made up of local representatives, after a bust-up with Labour councillors.

Grants for community tree projects

Norfolk County Council in partnership with Busseys has launched a grant scheme to help local communities plant new trees and create greener and cleaner areas to live.

£10,000 (maximum of £2,500 per application) has been made available to community organisations in Norfolk who are passionate about tree planting. Applications must be for planting trees that provide a tangible community benefit.

Anyone in Norfolk can apply providing they can meet the grant criteria.

Further details and how to apply for the community tree grant are available on the county council website here.