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Councillor ‘anxious’ to see districts benefit from £7.7m recovery fund

PUBLISHED: 15:03 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:03 07 July 2020

Eric Seward, North Norfolk district councillor for North Walsham East, and Liberal Democrat portfolio holder for finance. Picture: SUPPLIED BY THE CANDIDATE

Eric Seward, North Norfolk district councillor for North Walsham East, and Liberal Democrat portfolio holder for finance. Picture: SUPPLIED BY THE CANDIDATE

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A councillor has raised “anxiety” over what his district will get in return from its contribution to a £7.7m pot to launch the county’s Covid-19 economic bounceback.

Graham Plant, Norfolk county councillor for economic development. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodGraham Plant, Norfolk county councillor for economic development. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Business leaders and Norfolk county council are set to invest millions into the fund, alongside district council contributions and hopes of matched funding from central government.

The money would support firms hit by the effects of coronavirus, help develop new businesses and speed up job creation strategies.

At a meeting of Norfolk county council’s cabinet, held on Monday, July 6, councillors agreed to invest £1m into the fund, from its Covid-19 grant from the government.

READ MORE: Pot of £7.7m to help Norfolk recover from virus, but critics ‘underwhelmed’

Steve Blatch, chief executive of North Norfolk District Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSteve Blatch, chief executive of North Norfolk District Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

While business leaders from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will add £2m to the council’s investment, and Norfolk’s seven district councils are set to invest £150,000 each.

Councillors also hope the fund will include £3.7m either from the 2019-20 business rates pool, or the underspend from money awarded to councils for small businesses coronavirus grants.

A report stated the council is requesting government double the pot to £7.7m “to maximise the recovery effort in Norfolk”.

But at a North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) meeting, on July 6, a councillor asked for assurance that the district would “actually get something back in return”.

READ MORE: Government ‘new deal’ cash for Norfolk labelled ‘crumbs’

Chief executive Steve Blatch said the Norfolk leaders forum met on Friday, July 3, to discuss the restart and recovery plans prepared by the New Anglia LEP.

He told councillors it was felt there was an opportunity to develop a fund to kick start infrastructure and skills projects, with £150k supplied by each area, and hopes government would be prepared to match that spend via the business grants underspend.

“This is a request to government that the money be retained in Norfolk,” he said.

But Eric Seward, finance cabinet member asked: “When the chief executive talks about using these funds for infrastructure and skills, could he give any examples of what kinds of things could be happening in north Norfolk that wouldn’t happen without these funds? I’m anxious to ensure in providing this money we actually get something back in return.”

Mr Blatch said: “There are a number of projects that could be brought forward in north Norfolk, from business hubs to skills advice projects.

“We would submit a portfolio of projects to the fund.”

READ MORE: Plan to ‘instil confidence’ as visitors set to return to Norfolk’s coastal areas


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