We’ll help but we need cash!

Parish and town councils in north Norfolk say they need more information before they can commit themselves to taking on services from the county council.

With the coalition government committed to the Big Society and Norfolk County Council needing to save �155m over the next three years, bosses at Norfolk County Council hopes to save money by persuading parish and town councils to carry out some services.

These might include gritting footpaths in winter, grass cutting, fixing signs on minor roads and spraying weeds.

In north Norfolk the reaction has been one of wanting to help, but not without knowing what funding is available for carrying out the jobs.

Martin Campbell, clerk for parish councils in Walcott, Paston, Ingworth and Erpingham with Calthorpe, said no one from the county council had been to their meetings.

He said: 'There has been a mixed reaction, from those who say the county council is a highways authority and they should be looking after highways, to those who have agreed parish councils should be responsible for doing a bit more. The problem is the communication we have had is not parish specific and it needs to be before each parish decides what to take on, as parish councils are very much under-funded and generally these activities have a cost.'

He said in general he felt there had been a lack of information from the county council on the issue.

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Di Dann, clerk for Holt Town Council, said the council had expressed an interest in taking on services, after she and the chair of the council attended a meeting, along with other parish and town councils, in January this year with the county council.

She said: 'One of the things we were interested in taking on and extending was the registrar service. Also, at the moment the county council puts out a lot of information in newsletters which we could use and make more specific to our town.'

Elaine Pugh, clerk to parish councils in Roughton, Gimingham, Antingham, Witton, Southrepps and Bacton and Edingthorpe, said the parish councils she dealt with had all said they would like to take on some services, but it depended upon the county council funding it.

Denise Medler, clerk to Sheringham Town Council, said they had agreed in principle to take on services and had told the county council as such, provided the county council could fund them.

Tony Ross-Benham, chairman of Stalham Town Council said the problem with taking on services was that they had to rely on volunteers whereas the county council had an army of staff.

He said: 'We would not want to take on anything as a statutory responsibility. It would be asking too much of the volunteers.'

Margaret Foster, clerk to North Walsham Town Council, and Julie Chance, clerk to Cromer Town Council and the parish councils at Mundesley, Trimingham, Trunch, Swafield and Bradfield, Sea Palling and Waxham, both said the town and parish councils had expressed an interest in taking on some services, but were waiting to hear back from the council about funding.

Ian Mackie, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'We are providing local authorities with the opportunity to take on things that they may be able to do better. It is not about shifting the burden over because it is optional.'