Bill for council's Covid showground switch revealed

Council meeting

County councillors hold a meeting at the Norfolk Showground. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

The bill to hold council meetings at the Norfolk Showground, while County Hall is restricted by Covid and ongoing work, will top £25,000.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

But Andrew Proctor, the leader of Norfolk County Council said it was "a price worth paying" for democracy.

During the pandemic, as part of the Coronavirus Act 2020, council meetings could be held remotely, such as via virtual Zoom meetings.

But the government would not legislate to extend that beyond May 7, so physical meetings resumed.

However, amid ongoing work to revamp committee rooms, including the council chamber, at County Hall, the council has had to hire the arena at the Norfolk Showground, in Costessey, for meetings.

There was nowhere suitable at County Hall to adhere to Covid-19 safety requirements over social distancing.

And the bill to use the showground  so far - to cover six meetings - is an estimated £25,000. That does not include extra costs for Norse to provide security at the site.

The council says it is being paid for from the Covid Outbreak Management Fund, provided by the government.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “With the government bringing remote council meetings to an end but keeping key social distancing regulations in place for now, we need to hold meetings in a safe a secure environment.

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"While we have deferred those meetings that we can, there are some meetings we are required to hold and which, frankly, the people of Norfolk deserve to see go ahead, making decisions that are important for them.

"This does have a cost, but it is a price worth paying to ensure our elected members can scrutinise and discuss the issues that matter for Norfolk.”

Labour Town Close county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Archant

But Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: "It's totally ridiculous that we have been forced back to face to face meetings indoors, where the risk of transmission of coronavirus is greater.

"I do have some sympathy for the Conservative administration, in that their government has forced this upon them.

"But the government should make a separate pot of money available, rather than it coming out of the Covid Outbreak Management Fund, which should be supporting frontline services."